NASCAR must remain "really nimble" tackling COVID-19

NASCAR’s 2021 season will begin with many of the same COVID-19 protocols in place as last year with no clear sign when they will change.

NASCAR must remain "really nimble" tackling COVID-19

Aside from some small modifications, NASCAR officials said Monday during a preview of the 2021 season many of the same virus protocols remain in place from 2020.

Much of what will determine NASCAR’s ability to handle fans at event weekends will fall on conditions of local communities where the races take place.

One race – at Auto Club Speedway in California – has already been canceled this season due to the ongoing pandemic and replaced by a race weekend on the Daytona Road Course.

Read Also:

“We continue to try to put as many tools as possible in the protocol tool box,” said John Bobo, NASCAR’s vice president of racing operations. “Toward the end of last year, we started doing a lot of rapid antigen testing as part of a secondary screenings for people coming into the track and that will continue.

“We continue to emphasize with the drivers that we need rapid reporting of COVID-19 results so we can contract trace as well. We will continue to do the things we know will work.”

Strict safety protocols and procedures, such as mandated masks and screenings prior to entrance to the track, were implemented last May when the sport restarted after a nearly two-month hiatus.

The rules extend to the number of personnel teams are allowed to have at a track, where they may work and how work is conducted at team shops. There are varying repercussions for those who do not follow them.

2021 changes

Among the changes this season: one owner of a team will be allowed at the track, either in the infield or in a suite and one public relations or “content person” will be allowed at the track per car.

As was the case last year, if a driver tests positive for the coronavirus, they cannot return to racing until they have two negative test results a minimum of 24 hours apart and are cleared by a personal physician.

At least four drivers tested positive for COVID-19 during the 2020 season - seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, fellow Cup drivers Austin Dillon and Brendan Gaughan, as well as Truck series driver Spencer Davis. Johnson, Dillon and Davis all missed races as a result.

Bobo said NASCAR will continue to emphasize the correct use of social distancing and personal protection equipment as the best way to prevent virus spread at the track.

“We’ve talked to the drivers about ways they could earn penalties (in regards to PPE use),” he said. “Not only do you need to wear a mask, you need to wear a good mask and double the mask if you can.

“That’s especially true since the rate of transmission can increase with some of these (virus) variants). We’ve talked to them about the reality of Florida as they come to Florida (in the next week) and all the more reason to keep them safe.”

A worker cleans areas

A worker cleans areas

Photo by: NASCAR Media

Also like last season, NASCAR has created numerous “backup plans” in the event it must alter its schedule because of ongoing changes with the virus’ spread and rates of infection.

“If anything, we learned to be really nimble,” said NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief racing development officer, Steve O’Donnell. “One of the things we learned was by Speedway Motorsports Inc. and International Speedway Corp. being private we were able to be a little more nimble, which was very helpful.

“I think at times in the past we wouldn’t have been able to adjust the schedule as easily. A lot of those conversations have taken place during the offseason. Hopefully, again, we won’t have to use those but we will be ready to go if we need to.”

shares
comments

Related video

Keselowski: My Daytona 500 frustration level is “pretty extreme”

Previous article

Keselowski: My Daytona 500 frustration level is “pretty extreme”

Next article

Matt DiBenedetto on 2021 season: "I think it's our time"

Matt DiBenedetto on 2021 season: "I think it's our time"
Load comments

About this article

Series NASCAR Cup
Author Jim Utter
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020
Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started Prime

Why NASCAR's latest second-generation champion is just getting started

Chase Elliott's late charge to the 2020 NASCAR Cup title defied predictions that it would be a Kevin Harvick versus Denny Hamlin showdown. While the two veterans are showing no signs of slowing down, Elliott's triumph was a window into NASCAR's future…

NASCAR Cup
Nov 18, 2020
Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture Prime

Why Kyle Larson deserves his second chance in a cancel culture

“You can’t hear me? Hey n*****” Those fateful words uttered by Kyle Larson, spoken into his esports headset on April 12, were directed at his sim racing spotter – but instead they quickly became amplified around the world via social media, including his own Twitch stream.

NASCAR Cup
Oct 29, 2020