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BMS, NASCAR monitoring coronavirus

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 11, 2020 at 11:00 AM

Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR and the drivers are monitoring the coronavirus as they have a top priority of public safety followed by creating the best fan experience possible.

Jerry Caldwell, BMS executive vice president and general manager, first referred to a company statement when asked about coronavirus at a Monday media luncheon in Knoxville.

The statement read, “Bristol Motor Speedway is closely monitoring facts and recommendations from public health officials. The CDC's current risk assessment says COVID-19 is not currently widespread in the United States and for most people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus is low.

“To prevent the spread of cold, flu or COVID-19, experts are encouraging prevention, not panic, and asking people to practice good hygiene — frequent hand-washing, using hand sanitizer and covering sneezes and coughs. We are adding hand-washing stations and will encourage our guests through our many means of communication to use good hygiene while enjoying our events.”

Caldwell added the coronavirus situation is like a number of issues with fans — that safety is the No. 1 focus, although wanting fans have a good time at the speedway.

“We’re always exploring how are we making sure it’s safe for the race fans,” Caldwell said. “It’s certainly something we’ve paid attention to and why we’ve issued our statements. We continue to encourage fans to take care of our hygiene and make sure we’re smart with how we’re handling race weekend, but also have some fun. We can do those together.”

Formula One, the world’s most popular motorsports body, announced Saturday the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 22 will be run without any spectators. In addition, Indian Wells tennis tournament, one of the sport’s largest events outside of the Grand Slams, was cancelled Sunday.

NASCAR issued its own statement about COVID-19 last week.

“The health and safety of our fans, competitors, employees and everyone associated with IMSA, ARCA and NASCAR remains our top priority,” the statement read. “We are in regular communication with relevant authorities and will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

Xfinity Series Justin Allgaier saw some of the precautions taken during NASCAR’s “West Coast Swing” over the last three weekends with races at Las Vegas, California and Phoenix. He knows how reliant NASCAR is on the fan experience.

“The series and race tracks have done a great job making sure we have space, more cleaning stations and more access in the bathrooms for cleaning your hands,” Allgaier said. “I feel like as a community, we’re doing a good job trying to prevent the spread.

“Hopefully it doesn’t get to an epidemic like other countries. You hope when we have a race weekend scheduled, it doesn’t affect the fans’ experience. The most important part of our sport is the fan experience. Yes, we want to win races, but it’s about a great time for our fans and they’re getting the most of the hard-earned money they’re spending.”

He called the fan access the great part of the sport and added the accessibility to the drivers is something he doesn’t want to see diminished. However, with the interaction whether a meet-and-greet session or giving an autograph, he is taking precautions.

“You obviously have to be somewhat concerned about it,” Allgaier said. “Some drivers have gone from handshakes to fist bumps. For me, I carry a Sharpie with me everywhere I go and I’m constantly using my own.”

JUST THE GOOD OL’ BOYS

More guests have been announced for Hazzard Fest at Volunteer Speedway on May 8-9.

Tom Wopat, who portrayed Luke Duke on the Dukes of Hazzard TV show, will be one of the musical acts. The lineup also includes Darryl Worley, Andy Griggs, Jamie O’Neal and Whey Jennings, the grandson of the Dukes of Hazzard narrator Waylon Jennings.

Other cast members scheduled to attend include Catherine Bach (Daisy Duke) and Byron Cherry, a former ETSU football player who played Coy Duke on season five.

Professional wrestling legends including former WWE World Champion Sergeant Slaughter, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Rock n’ Roll Express Ricky Morton, “Boogie Woogie Man” Jimmy Valiant and Kelly Kelly. Former professional fighter Eric “Butterbean” Esch is also scheduled to attend.

There are concerts, comedy shows, meet and greet sessions, car shows and a full night of dirt track racing on May 9.

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