NASCAR was one of the first professional sports leagues in North America to successfully return to competition amid the still-ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, holding stock car races at tracks closed to the public in an attempt to finish its season after months away from the track.
Things have gone relatively smoothly in the transition from virtual racing to real live events, though Jimmie Johnson’s positive coronavirus test in early July sent shockwaves through the racing community that has dealt with other significant news since its return to racing. But according to reports Friday, the sport’s governing body is concerned that lax safety standards could cause a COVID-19 outbreak that could threaten NASCAR’s ability to keep competing and admonished teams and staff to adhere to wearing masks correctly.
WCNC Charlotte’s Nick Carboni reported Friday that NASCAR sent teams a memo reminding them about safety standards to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, including proper mask wearing and other safety standards, noting that “one cluster outbreak” could end the racing season well before it’s supposed to conclude if teams and staff contract COVID-19. The AP’s Jenna Fryer also reported on the memo Friday, sharing on Twitter the contents of the letter sent to NASCAR’s teams and their employees.
— Jenna Fryer (@JennaFryer) July 10, 2020
The note highlighted the rise of COVID-19 cases in southern states where most NASCAR tracks are located and acknowledged that more drivers and staff will contract the disease, but that its spread must be limited otherwise it “will threaten our ability to continue racing.”
“More people in our industry are going to contract the virus,” NASCAR said, “The key is limiting it.”
“It is important for everyone to do their part ALL THE TIME. One cluster outbreak can derail our season.”
It’s an alarming admission that more cases will hit NASCAR and its drivers and crews, though it is certainly one that is rooted in reality. America is past the point of properly containing the spread of the virus and lacks the tracking and testing mechanisms to limit exposure, and its state-by-state guidelines for mask wearing and other health and safety standards means outbreaks will continue across the country despite the best warnings of health experts. Any attempt to conduct sports in this environment is rife with dangers and potential exposure, and NASCAR is making it clear to its staff that just because the season has been able to continue amid growing caseloads nationwide, that may not be the case if people are not more careful.