The New Hampshire Motor Speedway expects 12,000 fans to show up for this Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 NASCAR race, the largest in-person sporting event in the region since the pandemic began.
Gov. Chris Sununu approved a plan that allows the track to have up to 35% of capacity, or around 19,000 people in attendance. The track created its own web page to alert fans to its updated safety protocols.
Guests will be required to wear masks while entering and exiting the facility, and have their temperature taken through a non-invasive scan.
Seating in the grandstand will also be socially distanced to ensure space in between groups.
“It’s like putting together a large puzzle, but necessary to meet social distancing requirements,” said Scott Cooper, vice president of communications for the Motor Speedway.
The track is requiring seats be purchased in advance. Camping is also prohibited this year.
NASCAR was the first major American sports league to permit fans to attend events since the pandemic emerged. Earlier this month, an estimated 20,000 fans attended a NASCAR race in Tennessee.
Other professional sports including Major League Baseball and the PGA Tour have resumed events, but are not allowing fans at this point.
A waiver posted on the Motor Speedway’s website warns guests of the risks of attending the event.
“Although preventative measures set forth by the facility are intended to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we cannot guarantee you will not be exposed during your visit,” the waiver reads.
It isn’t clear how state public health officials may be preparing for a possible outbreak of cases following Sunday’s event. Questions submitted by NHPR to the Department of Health and Human Services about its contact tracing capabilities and how it would work to notify attendees should someone test positive in the days following the race went unanswered.
During a press conference Tuesday, Sununu said it is unlikely that many people from outside of New England--where cases of COVID-19 remain relatively low compared to other parts of the country--will attend the race, given occupancy limits on the track.
The small crowd size will likely hurt local businesses in Loudon that rely on the annual NASCAR race to bring an economic boost. The Quality Inn hotel, which is the closest lodging option to the track, said it still has a handful of rooms available for this weekend.
“We are normally sold out a month or two ago,” said Max Howe, the hotel’s manager. “It’s not a typical year.”