State lawmakers call on Gov. Cooper to reopen Charlotte Motor Speedway for race without fans

State lawmakers call on Gov. Cooper to reopen Charlotte Motor Speedway for race without fans
Charlotte Motor Speedway (file photo) (Source: Charlotte Motor Speedway)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Several Republican lawmakers in North Carolina’s General Assembly are calling on Gov. Roy Cooper to reopen Charlotte Motor Speedway in time for a Memorial Day NASCAR race.

The plan would call for racing with no fans. The Coca-Cola 600 is scheduled for May 24.

This would be the 60th anniversary of Coke 600. The hope, according to lawmakers, would be to run the Memorial Day race without fans in attendance, but be broadcasted as originally scheduled.

Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith said on Sunday night that he would prefer to run the iconic race with fans in the stands, but will abide by guidelines determined by the status of the pandemic.

“Our desire is to run the Coca-Cola 600 with fans as originally scheduled on May 24, but we realize these are unprecedented circumstances and the parameters surrounding public gatherings remain a primary consideration,” said Smith. “We look forward to working with Gov. Cooper in an effort that will allow race fans to once again enjoy action on the track as we all work through these challenging times. For 60 years, this race has been a Memorial Day Weekend tradition at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and we want to do everything possible to support NASCAR, the dozens of race teams in North Carolina and the fans to get back on track. We will work with the governor, state and local government and health officials to make that happen.”

The lawmakers noted that Florida recently amended its stay at home order to allow for racing without fans.

NASCAR hasn’t held a race since March 8 in Phoenix in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

So far, eight races have been postponed. NASCAR was looking to restart the season at Martinsville on May 9, but now that race has been postponed.

Fans who spoke with WBTV like the idea of seeing the green flag fall, but aren't so sure about racing with no fans in the stands.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” NASCAR fan Darren Yoder said. “I think any sport that is ran should have fans, makes it a lot better. I’ve seen on FOX the WWE with no fans and it’s kind of boring to watch.”

State senators from Gaston, Cabarrus, Union, Iredell and Rowan counties joined in the call for Cooper to open the racetrack.

“NASCAR has already demonstrated it can safely run races without fans while practicing social distancing,” Sen. Paul Newton, of Cabarrus County, said in a press release.

“People are going stir-crazy with very few live sports underway,” Union County Senator Todd Johnson said. “And allowing NASCAR racing in Charlotte would be a good first step toward returning to some semblance of normalcy. Gov. Cooper should permit fan-less racing.”

Sens. Kathy Harrington, Vickie Sawyer and Carl Ford also backed the plan.

The Republicans say in order for the track to hold a race, Cooper would need to amend his executive orders.

“The lawmakers hope he does so quickly,” the release said.

Gov. Cooper has yet to respond.

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