Texas Gov. Greg Abbott opened stadiums to fans at 25% capacity last week and increased the maximum attendance capacity to 50% Wednesday. Now, the American Drag Racing League (ADRL) will be the first to take advantage of the reopening Friday and Saturday when they kick off their season at the Texas Motorplex.
The Ennis racetrack will host the ADRL with fans in attendance and released its social distancing guidelines, which includes seating in every other row with space between every spectator. Masks are recommended and a limited supply of free masks will be available at the pit gate.
The Texas Motorplex has an attendance capacity of up to an estimated 50,000 people. But ADRL President Mel Roth doesn't expect to hit the 50% capacity limit or even the 25% limit.
"We think we'll have an attendance of about 5,000 to 10,000 people over two days," Roth said. "So even with the increase in attendance capacity, we weren't even close to hitting that 25% mark anyways."
Texas Motorplex General Manager Andy Carter said he and his staff have been working with the governor's office about how the venue could be opened to fans.
“Governor Abbott’s leadership throughout this time has allowed us to be the first motorsports venue in Texas to allow fans to watch the sport we love and we are extremely appreciative of what he’s done for us and the state,” Carter said in a prepared statement. “We’re taking every precaution to provide a healthy outlet for fans and racers who have been at home the last two months and we’re looking forward to a great race here.”
On Saturday, IndyCar will also start its season at the Texas Motor Speedway, but they'll race without fans in the stands. The Texas Motor Speedway holds an attendance capacity of 181,655 people.
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"Nobody wants to have the stands filled with fans more than me, but we're just not in a position to do that yet," Texas Motor Speedway track President Eddie Gossage said in a written statement, noting the race will be broadcast live on NBC. "While the state will permit us to operate at 25% of capacity, there are still too many unanswered questions for an event that is just one week away."
More than 30 cars will participate in the first race of the ADRL season, and the temperature of all employees, racers and pit crews will be tested and monitored on a daily basis.
"We've actually done more than what is required under by the state," Roth said. "Our [pit] crews are skeleton crews. We've only brought everybody who's completely necessary."
Texas Motorplex opened its gates for local racers to make runs in early May. Now, the race track will also open its doors to fans.