NASCAR will have fans in the stands for the first time since March 8 during Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400, but they won’t be flying any confederate flags. Officials decided this week that a limited number of NASCAR fans would be in attendance at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Confederate flags, however, are banned.
Approximately 1,000 fans will be in the crowd on Sunday, and all are members of the armed forces. They will all be screened before entering, restricted to the grandstand, and required to wear face masks and practice social distancing.
Driver Alex Bowman told reporters it will be nice to see fans back in the stands.
“Yeah, it’s great to have people back, it’s been really different,” Bowman said. “I don’t think you really notice how different it is until post-race. Getting out of the cars to almost silence is just a really odd feeling. Hopefully, we put on a great show and the people that are able to be there at that race are making some noise because that awkward silence has been a little weird.”
Talladega is hosting next Sunday’s race, and the Alabama racetrack is planning on allowing 5,000 fans to watch the contest. NASCAR’s executive vice president Daryl Wolfe said Sunday’s Dixie Vodka 400 will be a test.
“The race-day experience will be different, it’s just different times, and fans will have to adjust that,” Wolfe said. “We will have to adjust on how we’re addressing these issues for fans. We think we have a very, very good plan in place, a very detailed plan.”
Fans React to Confederate Flag Ban
The other change NASCAR made is prohibiting fans from displaying the confederate flag at races or on the property outside the track. The organization announced the ban earlier in the week.
“The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry. Bringing people together around a love for racing and the community that it creates is what makes our fans and sport special,” the statement read.
NASCAR fan Marc Wiley, who is African-American, told CNN said the confederate flag ban was long overdue.
“I’m really excited about the direction the sport’s headed in,” Wiley said. “I haven’t been able to say that for a couple of years now.”
Wallace Happy for Flag Ban
Bubba Wallace, the only African-American driver in the Cup Series, lobbied on behalf of banning the confederate flag. While he received praise from his father for his activism, he also got some paternal advice.
“He was proud of what I was doing on and off the racetrack, but he was worried about safety, going out in public and whatnot,” Wallace said Friday during a teleconference with reporters. “It’s just crazy you have to worry about that side of things. Definitely got to watch your back now.”
Some NASCAR fans posted on social media that the confederate flag is part of their southern heritage. Wallace said it’s a sign of racism to many.
“To you, it might seem like heritage, but others see hate,” Wallace said. “We need to come together and meet in the middle and say, ‘You know what, if this bothers you, I don’t mind taking it down.’”