It’s not back to normal, but it’s a start.
Homestead-Miami Speedway will host up to 1,000 military personnel, first responders and their household members on Sunday when the NASCAR Cup Series runs its rescheduled 400-mile race in South Florida.
They will be the first people to sit in the stands for a NASCAR race since the season resumed May 17.
“I always thought I appreciated the fans and the atmosphere you feel when you walk around the track but, once you live not having any of that, you realize how much you miss everyone,” said Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
“This weekend will be nice to have some folks back in the stands. I’m not going to be happy until everyone is back and healthy at the track. Who knows when that will be, but it will be good to see folks in the stands on Sunday. I hope we can give them a heck of a race.”
There will be lots of rules.
Those admitted to the track will not be allowed in the infield. They must undergo a health screening before entering the facility, including a temperature check. They also will be required to wear a cloth mask and comply with other preventive measures, including social distancing in the stands. The track will have a sequenced ingress and egress procedure to control entry to and exit from the facility to minimize large concentrations of people. There will be multiple hand washing and hand sanitizing stations throughout the entrances and concourse.
No tailgating will be allowed. Parking will be allowed in every other spot. Guests will be prohibited from bringing coolers. Limited menus will be available. No merchandise will be sold on site.
Tracks on the upcoming schedule are contemplating similar plans with event procedures, protocols and number of attendees finalized with guidance from public health officials, medical experts and local, state and federal officials. Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway will allow up to 5,000 guests in the frontstretch grandstands and towers for its race June 21. In addition, there will be limited motorhome and fifth-wheel camping spots available outside the track, high atop the Alabama Gang Superstretch.
Bowyer said once he straps into his car and the engine is fired, he forgets about not having fans in the stands. But it’s a different story once he climbs out of the car.
“Where I really noticed it was at Bristol,” said Bowyer, who finished second there. “We had a hell of a finish. You had guys mad at each other, wrecked racecars, controversy, pissed-off people and all that. The crowd would have been roaring with everything that was going on. But it was silence when I got out. That’s where you really miss all our fans.”
Sunday at Homestead, Bowyer will pilot the No. 14 BlueDEF® Ford. BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is one of the key elements in the process used by diesel engine builders to meet environmental regulations. DEF is not a fuel or fuel additive. Instead, when injected into the exhaust stream and passed over a catalyst, DEF helps convert harmful gasses into nitrogen gas and water vapor – two harmless and natural components of the air we breathe.
The Homestead race will mark the third primary race this season for Bowyer with Old World Industries, the parent company of the PEAK and BlueDEF® brands. BlueDEF served as the No. 14 team’s sponsor at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March while PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze adorned the No. 14 Ford on May 28 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
PEAK’s legacy in motorsports spans 40 years and includes leading drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty. Besides Bowyer’s No. 14 team, PEAK is a partner with the Haas F1 team with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series, and drag racing’s winningest driver John Force. Bowyer will race one of Petty’s historic paint schemes during NASCAR’s Throwback weekend at Darlington in September.
BlueDEF is saluting America’s truckers by including the social media hashtag #KeeponTruckin on the hood of Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Mustang Sunday in Homestead.
BlueDEF is also encouraging fans at home to make signs thanking truckers. For every picture of the homemade signs posted to social media and tagged with @PEAKBlueDEF, the company will donate $5 to the Truckers Relief Fund up to $10,000.
Sunday’s race marks the eighth Cup Series race since May 17 and will be run as NASCAR continues to operate since returning from a 10-week hiatus due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As it did at Darlington, Charlotte, Bristol, Atlanta and Martinsville, NASCAR series and team personnel in the infield will continue to operate under a comprehensive health and safety plan at Homestead that permits no fans, limited crew, strict social distancing, and mandated personal protective equipment and health screenings for all.
Bowyer arrives at Homestead 12th in points after finishing 17th Wednesday night at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. He finished second in Stage 1 but faded in Stage 2. He expects a better finish Sunday at Homestead.
The 1.5-mile track has treated him well over the years. In 14 races there, he owns three top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He’s finished in the top-eight in six of the last nine races at the track.
He hopes he’ll get to celebrate a victory Sunday. If he does, he’ll get to at least celebrate with a few fans.
CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 BlueDEF Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Do you remember your last visit to the Miami area?
“Oh yeah, I’ll never forget that. That was one of the greatest nights of my life, watching the Chiefs – I said the Kansas City Chiefs – win the Super Bowl. That whole week down there was a blast. We had some work with FOX and NASCAR doing media and we hung out with a lot of Chiefs fans during the week. The thing I learned about Super Bowl week is, about the time they finally get around to kicking off the game, your tank is near empty and the parties are just getting started. I was used up after that trip.”
How would you assess the No. 14 team’s performance since the resumption of racing?
“We have been fast and led a bunch of laps, but we haven’t gotten the finishes we deserve. The driver has hit the wall, a part broke, tires gave out, it always seems to be something, of late. But, we are heading in the right direction. If we keep running like we are running, then the results will come.”