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BMS officials set safety protocols for All-Star Race

Jeff Birchfield • Jul 2, 2020 at 9:15 PM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Bristol Motor Speedway is getting ready to host the largest number of fans at a sporting event since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Up to 30,000 fans may be at BMS for the NASCAR All-Star Race on July 15, but with such an opportunity comes great responsibility, so NASCAR and track officials have put into place several safety protocols.

All ticketing is being conducted digitally to eliminate contact points.

Trams and shuttle buses are not operating and golf cart shuttles are reserved for those with limited mobility.

Fans are encouraged to wear masks once they enter the property. They can remove the masks once they reach their seats but are required to wear them in all common areas inside the facility, such as gates, concessions, souvenir stands, elevators and hallways.

“We believe the temporary minor inconvenience that it presents is a small price to pay to welcome fans back and us to continue to have live sports,” BMS general manager Jerry Caldwell said Thursday. “NASCAR was the first sport to get back to live events. This will be the first to have a substantial number of race fans.

“We’re thrilled and honored it’s happening at Bristol Motor Speedway, but we know it comes with great responsibility. I know our fans want to continue to see racing and will adhere to these protocols. We care about our community, our race fans and our sport to continue to enjoy these live events with the eyes of the world upon us.”

Fans may bring in food and drinks, but the items must be in a small, clear container security can easily check. Purchases made from food and souvenir stands are electronic only —credit or debit cards, no cash or checks.

There is no re-entry after leaving the facility.

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable echoed a recent message from Tennessee athletic director Phil Fulmer, who urged everyone to wear masks. Thursday saw a seventh straight day of 1,000-plus coronavirus cases in Tennessee, but Venable said he believes fans will be safe as long as they take the proper precautions.

“Coach Fulmer was saying if you want to see UT football, then wear a mask,” Venable said. “We’re going to tell our visitors if you want to see good NASCAR racing, then follow the rules. If they do that, we will be fine.”

Caldwell said news that NASCAR’s “choose rule” will be used for the first time in an All-Star Race ramped up the excitement for the event. Commonly used at weekly short tracks, the rule allows the second place-running driver and those behind him to either go high or low on a restart.

It could make a huge difference at Bristol, whose high line has been dominant in recent years.

“I’ve been surprised how popular the choose rule has been,” Caldwell said. “I love the idea and the concept. The drivers are excited about it and it adds a fun element. It’s a sport with suspense and entertainment. It adds suspense with the way the drivers line up. That high side is sometimes the place you want to be. If you’re in second, third, fourth, where do you want to go? It will be interesting to see it play out.”

Caldwell said his favorite All-Star Race was the 1995 edition because it was the first one he attended. Jeff Gordon won ahead of runner-up Sterling Marlin, who was driving for the Abingdon-based Morgan-McClure team.

“When you think of the All-Star Race, you think of the classic moments,” Caldwell said. “Other than the Bristol races that I’m obviously partial to, it has always been one of my favorite races. There’s something different about the All-Star Race with the different format. The drivers and teams seem different. I can’t wait to see it here.”

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