Racing Fans Pack North Carolina Speedway Stands, Most Not Wearing Masks

While there will not be any fans in the stands at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday, there were plenty of spectators at Ace Speedway in Elon, North Carolina, for its season opener on Saturday. Although the raceway staff issued guidelines for fans, many did not practice social distancing or wearing masks. Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson said he would not enforce Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order limiting outside gatherings to 25 people because he believes it is "unconstitutional."

Ace Speedway's season was supposed to start last month but was delayed over the coronavirus pandemic. Staff was wearing face masks and posted signs reminding people to follow social distancing and sanitation guidelines. They also published a reminder on Facebook the day before the race, asking anyone who feels sick to stay home and to "use your best judgment" when attending the event.

However, when Fox8 arrived at the speedway, there were many more than 25 people. Some people even traveled from outside North Carolina to attend the race. "We're tired of being stuck in the house. I'm not afraid of this virus one bit," spectator Becky Woosley told the station. Brad Flynt, who drove from Richmond, Virginia, said he was wearing his mask and "would have liked" to see more people wearing masks as well.

Ticket sales started at 5 p.m., two hours before the gates opened. The Winston-Salem Journal published photos of long lines, with people standing closer than six feet apart. Ernest "Smokey" Bare, who worked at the main gate, said it had been "years" since he saw a long line to get in. "I think people are just ready to get out and do something," Bare told the Journal. "The county approved (Ace) doing this, and people have wanted to see short-track racing. This is the first one with fans in the stands, and people wanted to be here."

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North Carolina began Phase 2 of its reopening plans Friday, reports WXII. Cooper's new executive order allows dine-in restaurants, pools, churches, hair and nail salons and barbershops to open in a limited capacity. Bars, nightclubs, indoor entertainment venues, gyms and public playgrounds remain closed. Cooper noted that some restaurants might choose against an opening, and asked residents to "Show them some courtesy patience as they weigh how to best serve their customers and stay safe."

The Ace Speedway event was the first major sporting event in North Carolina to allow spectators since the state began reopening. Spectators are still not permitted at Charlotte Motor Speedway for NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600. As of now, 52 condominiums overlook the speedway, and residents there will be able to see the race from the comfort of their homes, reports The Associated Press.