When Martin Truex Jr. won the NASCAR Cup Series race just over a month ago, the thrill of victory felt much different than he’s used to as he climbed out of his car in front of empty stands in Martinsville, Virginia.
“It was just so quiet and so awkward," Truex Jr said. "Normally you get out of the car and it’s so exciting because the fans are going nuts and you hear them yell and taking pictures and just having a great time.”
While fans were kept away by the pandemic, NASCAR has made a successful return to the track, and that’s great news for the person in charge of Texas Motor Speedway.
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“Fortunately for us, it (racing) requires you to have distancing," TMS president Eddie Gossage said. "You have a car between you and the other driver and so we’ve been able to come back on television and now we’re beginning to have some fans in the stands.”
Fans have been in the stands in places like Homestead-Miami and Talladega and that made NASCAR driver William Byron feel good.
“Homestead was not really noticeable, but Talladega, I think there were 5,000 fans there and it was different," Byron said. "The cheers after the race, before the race, you know everything of that nature was really cool so yeah I think it brought a different atmosphere to Talladega and hopefully that’s similar at Texas.”
TMS will be allowed up to 50% capacity for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday. But even then, there’s a long way to go before racing fully returns to normal.
“It’s still way different because (fans are) not in the garage, they’re not in the pits, you don’t see them pre-race, they’re not high-fiving you going out to your car and things like that, so even though we’re starting to have fans at the track, it’s still different," Truex said. "But I think just letting them come in and get that personal view and the excitement that you can’t get watching on TV, you know when you’re in the stands and you can hear it, smell it, see everything, it’s just a whole different perspective."
It's a perspective race fans in North Texas can't wait to experience again.