In the largest fan event in New England since the onset of COVID-19, about 19,000 will be able to fill reserved seating for the Foxwoods Resort Casino NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Aug. 2.
Gov. Chris Sununu announced during his news conference Thursday that the Loudon speedway can operate up to 35% capacity in the grandstands for the race.
“We will place people on this property as safe as we can,” NHMS Executive Vice President and General Manager David McGrath said during a media teleconference call Thursday. “As we look at things and things start to shake out, that (allowed percentage) is kind of what will be our guiding light as to how we do that.
“We feel that with enough spatial distance between people and between groups that don’t know one another, it will be a challenge to accommodate but we can get the job done and make sure that we position people safely in the grandstands.”
The track’s website states it has a seating capacity of 76,000.
As of Thursday afternoon, McGrath said a little more than 12,000 tickets had been sold for the race. Residents of any state can attend.
Both McGrath and Sununu said it will be a one-day event and camping will not be allowed.
“It’s important to the state, it’s important to our company and race fans around the Northeast,” McGrath said of the race. “We’re excited.”
Up to 5,000 fans were permitted at the NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Monday.
NHMS’ safety protocols for the Loudon race will include social-distancing in the grandstands and concession lines, enhanced cleaning and sanitation on frequently touched surfaces and high-traffic public areas, adding hand sanitizer stations and limiting the number of guests in the suites. Infield admission will be limited to race team and operational personnel.
Sununu said fans attending the race will not be required to wear masks but are encouraged to do so. All employees will wear masks, he said.
“This won’t be a situation where there will be a lot of outbreak,” Sununu said.
Among those excited to hear Thursday’s news was Nelly Roache of Northfield, who has been coming to the Cup Series races at NHMS for 15 years. She attends with husband Jason and children Ashlee, 14, and Jocelyn, 16.
“We’ve been watching on TV but it definitely hasn’t been the same watching with no fans screaming in the background and stuff. It’s exciting for us to see it’s coming back,” said Nelly, a fan of seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, who is retiring after this year.
Those who purchased tickets to the race for its original July 19 date will receive a 120% credit that they can use toward a ticket for the Aug. 2 race or receive a full refund. Other exchange offers are also available.
Free parking will be available in the S1, S2, S3 and S9 lots on the grounds. Bath houses will be closed and the trams will not run.
Fans can bring in food and unopened drinks in a soft-sided, clear bag that is no larger than 14-by-14-by-14 inches. Standard coolers will be prohibited. Cash will not be accepted at the event. Fans can make purchases on site via credit or debit card or Apple Pay.