DOVER — The Drydene 400 NASCAR Cup Series race, scheduled to take the green flag Sunday at 2 p.m. at Dover International Speedway, is a sellout — with a caveat.
There have been no official numbers released saying how many tickets have been sold for the event and the Delaware Division of Public Health never publicly announced how many fans could be hosted by the speedway, although there will be limited capacity for this weekend’s tripleheader of NASCAR racing.
While the crowd will be markedly smaller than traditional NASCAR weekends in Dover — thanks to COVID-19-related social distancing requirements — it will still be a festive occasion, as it’s the first time in a year-and-a-half that fans will be able to return to the grandstands at the Monster Mile.
The coronavirus forced the cancellation of last May’s NASCAR race weekend, before it was run as a doubleheader in August in front of a sea of empty seats.
Now, less than one month after earning approval from state public health officials that guests could return to Dover International Speedway on a limited basis, track officials said they received overwhelming positive responses from their guests and are prepared to welcome campers and fans back to the world’s fastest 1-mile oval.
“We appreciate the patience and understanding we heard from fans during our reseating process, and we look forward to welcoming them back in the grandstands this weekend,” said Mike Tatoian, Dover International Speedway’s track president. “We thank not only our fans for their continued loyalty and enthusiasm, but also Delaware public health officials for their confidence in us to host this weekend’s races safely.”
Tickets can still be purchased for the General Tire 125 ARCA Menards Series East that will take place Friday at 5 p.m., and Saturday’s Drydene 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash race, at 1:30 p.m.
There will be special procedures in place throughout the weekend, including social distancing in grandstands and concession lines, the use of digital tickets for all grandstand seats, the required wearing of masks, enhanced cleaning in high-traffic areas, added hand sanitizer stations and prohibited infield access, except for race teams, track personnel and select media.
There will be no practice or qualifying sessions for the NASCAR events — just the races themselves — but Mr. Tatoian is fired up that opening the grandstand gates to a limited number of fans is certainly a step in a positive direction.
He said NASCAR’s passionate fan base is a large part of what makes race weekends so special. Every fan has his or her favorite driver, proudly wears T-shirts and hats to the track and are the No. 1 reason sponsors advertise their products.
“The drivers really seem to enjoy their work even more when they get to perform in front of fans,” Mr. Tatoian said. “The sports industry is built with one thing in mind — entertaining fans on television, digital media and in person. The ultimate excitement in any sport is to experience it live — to hear it, feel it, see it and even smell it — while it all unfolds in real time right in front of you, surrounded by family and friends.
“The energy that fans bring to the track is felt by the drivers and our staff, and that is what drives all of us to put on the best show possible, both on and off the track. Nothing is better than hearing the command for drivers to start their engines and to hear the rumble of the cars as they fire up. It’s about the most hair-raising fan event a sports fan can experience, and the only way that happens is to be here in person.”
Truex coming in hot
Martin Truex Jr., who often calls Dover his “home track,” is a three-time Cup Series winner at the Monster Mile.
He is rolling into Dover’s upcoming race this weekend fresh off a dominating performance in Sunday’s Goodyear 400 race in Darlington, South Carolina, which made him the only three-time winner in the Cup Series this season. Darlington hosted about 10,000 fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We just have to keep this thing going,” Mr. Truex said. “Guys are doing a really good job, all around. It’s so fun to drive racecars like that. I’m just so thankful for all of those guys that work so hard — men and women — back at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) for the job they do.
“It takes a lot of people to make these cars go fast, and I’m really lucky to be able to sit behind the wheel of this one.”
Kyle Larson, who won the historic 100th race in Dover International Speedway’s history Oct. 6, 2019 — the last one held in front of fans in the grandstands at the Monster Mile — finished second to Mr. Truex at Darlington.
Mr. Larson said he is excited about heading to Dover, his favorite track, for its 103rd Cup Series race, making it one of only 10 tracks in the country to host 100 or more Cup Series events.
“Now, we go to Dover, which is one of, if not my best, track,” he said. “I’m excited about that, and Hendrick Motorsports has been pretty good at Dover from what I remember, too, so I’m looking forward to getting there.
“Dover is just an awesome place, and it suits my style. You can move around quite a bit. It’s fast, aggressive, and I love it. I’m ready to get there and, hopefully, be one spot better.”
DelDOT ready for busy weekend
The Delaware Department of Transportation is ready for a busier-than-normal weekend, as NASCAR descends upon Dover.
DelDOT’s Transportation Management Center staff, in coordination with Dover police and Delaware State Police, will monitor traffic in and around the capital city to ensure safe travel for motorists.
Drivers are encouraged to tune to WTMC-1380 AM and to view the message boards surrounding the Dover area.
The TMC and WTMC provide motorists real-time traffic conditions throughout the state. Drivers can contact the TMC 24/7 to report any travel- or traffic-related issues at the following numbers: Dial #77 from a cellphone in Delaware or call 659-4600 or (800) 324-8379.
Motorists may also adjust their routes or travel times by using DelDOT’s smartphone app, which can be downloaded for free. With the app, individuals can view traffic cameras, travel times, delays, advisories and DART information and also listen to WTMC.