CONCORD, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Campgrounds at Charlotte Motor Speedway will open Thursday morning for fans attending the 62nd Annual Coca-Cola 600. The race this year will be allowed to operate at full capacity, thanks to the end of COVID-19 restrictions in North Carolina.
The return to fans is a huge change compared to just one year ago.
The 2020 Coca-Cola 600 went on as scheduled, but without much fanfare. Fans were not allowed on track property, let alone in the stands. Security was tight, with all entrances closed. Only one entrance for drivers, crew members and NASCAR officials was open. Before entering the track everyone received a health check.
Just about two weeks ago was when Charlotte Motor Speedway leaders got word COVID restrictions in North Carolina would be dropped statewide. Speedway leaders had already come up with a race plan to welcome fans back during COVID restrictions. That plan had been approved by the governor’s office but was thrown out.
“We are really following the lead of our state and local health officials,” said Jonathan Coleman from Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The speedway actually helped play a role in allowing COVID restrictions to drop in the state. In February of this year thousands of people received a COVID-19 vaccine at the track through a partnership with Atrium Health.
State leaders feel COVID-19 numbers have dropped to a safe and manageable level, but that isn’t stopping Charlotte Motor Speedway leaders from still applying some COVID rules for race day.
“We are going to ask instead of the traditional cooler policy, fans bring everything in a clear plastic bag just to try and eliminate those usual touch points,” said Coleman.
Tickets for fans will also be all digital as well as most track maps and track information.
The Governor’s office estimates Cabarrus County lost more than $24 million in hotel revenue last year with fans forced to stay home.
FOX 46 spoke with a fan from Canada last year who was stuck in Florida, unable to attend any NASCAR races.
“It’s depressing. It’s depressing. I realize we can watch it on TV, but it’s not the same as being there with your friends and family,” said Charlene Lapense.
Charlotte Motor Speedway leaders have extended ticket office hours, but it’s still unclear how many fans will attend the Coca-Cola 600 this year with restrictions lifted so close to race weekend.