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
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
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.
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
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.