TALLADEGA COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT) – It’s officially race week at Talladega Superspeedway. For the first time since 2019, it will be at full capacity, which means more than 100,000 could be there over the weekend.
The only COVID restrictions in place is mask wearing will be required in closed structures such as suites, bathrooms, and garages.
“What we all need to get back to. We need to get back to normal,” Track President Brian Crichton said.
But the atmosphere is already electric as fans are starting to set up shop at their campsites outside the track. Brad Simms from Lincoln County, Tennessee is the first fan to set up camp for the race.
“This is twice a year for me to unload and get life off of me for a minute,” Simms said.
He was awarded a banner from Track President Brian Crichton, signaling him as the first fan there. Simms considers it a badge of honor. He says they weren’t able to come to Talladega last year and believes there is going to be a ton of fans over the weekend.
“I would think this will be like a gold rush in California this year,” Simms said.
Crichton says he’s excited and nervous for the race and is happy to see fans again.
“I knew one day we would get to this point just didn’t know when it was going to be,” Crichton said.
But medical experts like Dr. Michael Saag at UAB are still cautious about large crowds, given the states transmission rate.
“If we have 100,00 people gather with the current spread of the virus, that means out of that 100,000, there’s going to be about 700 people at the event who are going to be infected at that moment in time,” Dr. Saag said.
He says it’s not clear right now if large outdoor events like college football games are contributing to the spread of the virus. Either way, he believes being vaccinated are wearing masks at events is the best protection.
“Seems like we’re getting better now, let’s keep our fingers crossed, but in the mean time, we still need to be vigilant,” Dr. Saag said.
Fans and everyone a part of NASCAR are ready for a big and safe weekend ahead.
“This is more than a race. This is Talladega,” Crichton said.
The big race kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m.