Fans Barred From NASCAR, IndyCar Races From Coronavirus

Today we are seeing the complete elimination or postponement of sporting events in the US. For auto racing enthusiasts that also includes NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA, and NHRA races. Sunday’s season-opening IndyCar season in St. Petersburg, Florida, will be without spectators. For NASCAR’s race in Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend it would be immediately followed next week by the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That is located in Dade County which is under a state of emergency over the coronavirus. So NASCAR officials deemed both races to be spectator-less. Races in April will be under consideration pending the public health advisements over the pandemic.

Some cities will not permit mass gatherings or have called a state of emergency

HOMESTEAD, FL – NOVEMBER 17: Martin Truex Jr. (19) and Kevin Harvick run through turn four during the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 17, 2019. (Photo by Michael Bush/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

St. Pete’s mayor announced today the city would not permit fans to attend which prompted IndyCar’s move. The race runs through the streets of St. Pete but only authorized personnel will be allowed in the area. Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez told IndyCar officials that unless it wanted to run its race without fans it would have to postpone the event. 

In a statement, NASCAR said, “These events will be restricted to competitors, crews, officials, and other necessary personnel to conduct the race. We will work with the public health officials as we determine future scheduling beyond these events.” NASCAR has already instituted six-foot buffers at media sessions and outdoor drivers meetings. 

IndyCar said it would be extremely difficult to reschedule its St. Pete event

ST. PETERSBURG, FL – MARCH 12: Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, races through a turn during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 12, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fl. Bourdais won the season-opening event. (Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Penske Entertainment, which owns IndyCar, said that rescheduling the St. Pete race would have been almost impossible for them. It also was taking into consideration that the track has already been built through the streets of downtown. Having to build it and tear it down twice was not a good option. 

Over at Formula One, it continues to keep the date this weekend for the Australian Grand Prix. However, today McLaren withdrew from the event after a team member tested positive for the coronavirus. Four members of the Haas team have also tested positive so they already withdrew. 

Formula One will continue with the Australian Grand Prix in spite of teams withdrawing

Things are moving rapidly. Since writing this just four hours ago it has been confirmed that the Australian Grand Prix has been canceled.

The words “Stop F1” are seen over the Sydney sky on March 11, 2020. – Three Formula One team staff members have been isolated at the Australian Grand Prix while tests are conducted for the new coronavirus, officials said, casting a shadow over the opening race of the year. (Photo by DAVID GRAY / AFP) (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

Six-time champion Lewis Hamilton said, “I am really very, very surprised we’re here. It’s shocking we’re all sitting in this room. It seems that the rest of the world is already reacting a little bit late yet Formula One continues.”

Back in the US, the IMSA sports car series postponed next week’s 12 Hours of Sebring until November. The Florida event attracts many teams and spectators from Europe. With Donald Trump announcing the travel ban from Europe yesterday, it left IMSA with little choice but to either cancel or postpone.

Professional classes for NHRA’s Gatornationals have been canceled

March 14, 2015: Larry Dixon’s Top Fuel car breaks in half at about 280 mph and flies through the air during qualifying for the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Auto Plus Raceway in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Ron Lewis/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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NHRA’s Gatornationals event scheduled for this weekend in Gainesville, Florida, has been canceled for the professional classes. The Sportsman classes scheduled to race today will instead race this weekend without spectators. These are the amateur races that don’t typically draw many spectators. They are usually threaded into Thursday testing and qualifying for the professional classes.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher said, “We are working through the schedule and will keep everyone apprised when we reschedule.” Florida’s Governor’s Office made the plea for all events with mass gatherings to be canceled pending further developments over the next few weeks.

Those with tickets can either attend the rescheduled event or the 2021 Gatornationals. The event typically has over 100,000 spectators attending each year.