After weeks of pressure from teams and sponsors, NASCAR is working on opening its infield back up to VIPs and guests, starting next month at Darlington, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Ever since the sport returned to racing during the pandemic last May, the garage and pit-road areas of tracks have been sealed off from not only sponsor guests but even full-time, business-side executives across the sport, save for a handful of the sanctioning body‘s most senior leaders.
As the policy spilled into the 2021 season, that approach has become problematic for teams. The sponsorships they sell include key hospitality assets such as garage and hauler tours, plus the ability to be on pit road until just before the race starts and rub shoulders with the sport‘s luminaries. Sponsor guests and team owners have only been allowed in grandstand suites at typically reduced capacities since late last season.
Now, sources say that NASCAR informed teams in recent weeks that it will start a pilot program at Darlington, where it will allow a limited number of fully vaccinated guests to get into the infield — a major step toward a return to normalcy for the sport. The Darlington race weekend is May 7-9.
It was unclear exactly how many people will be allowed at Darlington, but a source said the number is expected to be in the single digits per team. The pilot program will also apply to guests of the sanctioning body and track. According to a source, NASCAR‘s plan on ensuring the guests are properly vaccinated will rely on shared responsibility between the hosting party, such as a team, as well as vetting by the sanctioning body, which will require proof of vaccination.
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