On Wednesday, the World Health Organization on their website declared, “COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.” This means that there is a major concern for the health and wellbeing of humans globally. Indeed, the Coronavirus, as it is commonly known, is no respecter of national borders, political parties, religious faith, or even gender. So, what does that mean to the motorsports community?
The world has been on edge. Every day reports are presented in the media with numbers of those affected by the virus, their locations, and how those affected localities are responding. Until the virus is contained and treated or eradicated, organizations holding significant events are also on edge.
Many indoor events for all industries are being canceled or postponed. Thankfully, however, motorsports is an oddball. Most events are held in outdoor venues where there is plenty of fresh air and wide-open space, as opposed to indoor events where everybody is sharing the same, mostly recirculated air, and are packed in elbow to elbow.
One of the largest organized motorsports organizations in the nation, The National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing, or NASCAR, has been evaluating the flow of Coronavirus information from the WHO and the CDC, Centers For Disease Control. On Wednesday, they made a determination on the next steps to take for protecting anybody involved with one of their events.
This weekend’s NASCAR event will be held at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Free hand sanitizer will be handed out at the entry gates. Additional handwashing stations are also added to the facility. Cleaning efforts in high traffic areas have been made more frequent.
NASCAR is not alone. Other motorsports organizations are making adjustments to protect participants and spectators alike. The NHRA, National Hot Rod Association, is also monitoring the Coronavirus situation. This weekend is their Gatornationals in Florida. It is one of their biggest events, with over 500 cars expected. Kasey Coler, the General Manager for the organization, said on Wednesday,
“We’re making sure that we’ve got a lot of extra sanitizer, extra wash stations. We’re prepared. We’ve got a lot of messaging around the facility to remind folks to take the basic precautions as the CDC has mentioned.”
The Firestone Grand Prix XXLink To My StoryXX is scheduled for this weekend in Florida. The Mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Kriseman, on Wednesday said that his community would embrace the race. Additional handwashing stations, hand sanitizing stations, and handwashing trailers have been brought in for the event.
Formula One will compete in the Australian Grand Prix this weekend. According to Autoblog.com, McLaren has dropped out already because they have a team member that is positive for Coronavirus. Four Crew members at the Haas Racing Team are in quarantine already. The Bahrain Grand Prix, the next stop on the circuit will be run without fans.
World Endurance Championship
Motorsports is not a United States only thing though. Some organizations hold a few of their races in a mix of overseas and US tracks. This has led to a recent announcement of cancellation. Fox News is reporting that,
“the World Endurance Championship racing series has canceled its upcoming March 20 sports car race at Sebring International Raceway in Florida due largely to travel restrictions that affect many of the European teams scheduled to compete. No changes have yet been announced for the U.S.-based IMSA Sebring 12 Hour race scheduled for March 21 at the track.”
An Abundance of Caution
The yellow flag is the symbol in motorsports for caution. It indicates something has happened, and the need to proceed with caution is necessary. Drivers then follow a pace car until the track is cleared and safe.
Right now, with regard to the Coronavirus, the yellow flag is waving and the pace car is out on the motorsports tracks across the world. For the purposes of this metaphor, that pace car is the WHO and the CDC. Everybody is watching them to know how to proceed. For the time being, that means each day is handled with an abundance of caution.