You could insert just about any phrase you like into the sentence “2020 was a challenging year that saw some major changes in …”
The NASCAR races at the Talladega Superspeedway are, of course, no exception.
And like so many things the above statement applies to, this year's races at Talladega also fit into the formula about things gradually returning to normal in 2021.
Racing returns to Talladega this weekend with NASCAR Xfinity and ARCA races Saturday and the Cup Series race Sunday.
“We opened up parts of the infield and some of the outside campgrounds Wednesday, and we’ve seen a steady stream of RVs coming in. We’re seeing a lot of fans, and a lot of excitement,” Talladega Superspeedway President Brian Crichton said. “This is the third race that we’ve had in Talladega during the pandemic, and we’ve been able to grow the attendance in the grandstands each time.
"We had 5,000 the first time, then we went up to 25 percent capacity, and now we’re up to 35 percent capacity this weekend. The Sunday race is all but sold out (as of Thursday afternoon), and there is a waiting list. We’re seeing really high demand, people really wanting to come back.”
Of course, the standard precautions still apply.
“Starting in June 2020 or so, we worked with all the other tracks to come up with policies and protocols to keep everyone safe,” Crichton said.
Fans will be expected to wear masks, and to maintain social distancing. According to the track’s website, guests will be directed to designated parking areas and there will be staggered entry. Guests will also be screened for symptoms and possible exposure before entering.
There will also be hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout, and clean teams will be at work constantly.
Crichton said there had been no problem with compliance with the protocols.
“People are happy that they can come back, and thanked us for opening up," he said. "And it’s the same for us. It’s great to see the fans coming back.”
Limiting the number of available seats “gives us the ability to separate unrelated groups in the grandstands and concourses,” Crichton said.
There is room for some RVs, but keep in mind that Confederate flags are not allowed, as they were when RVs could park at Talladega Superspeedw…
There is no tent camping this time around, but there are plenty of available spaces for RVs.
“We’ve got 1,300 spots in the infield, and 1,600 outside," Crichton said. "And there will be a competitors bubble in the infield for essential personnel.”
Added Crichton: “But we’ve added some exciting elements this time, too. We’ve opened up the Garage Experience again, although it’s a little different than when we first opened it in 2019. We’ll have reserved table seating, with distancing used throughout the day. The tables will have a view of Pit Row, and there will be plenty of large screen TVs to keep up with the race. There will also be value priced concessions, and a drive-in viewing opportunity.”
The latter, he said, “kind of takes you back to the old days, when you could just drive up to the fence.”
A designated area inside turns one and two has been set up for tailgating Sunday with tickets purchased in advance. Those tickets also went quickly, and are expected to be sold out by the time this is printed.
“People can bring in their folding chairs, their coolers and their grills,” Crichton said. “We have 350 spots altogether, but there are less than 50 left (as of Thursday afternoon).
”There will also be touchless displays from 11 outside partners, and there will be 13 driver/team merchandise and car haulers on site.
“I’m just so proud, so happy to be able to have the fans back and have them be safe," he said. "It’s an exciting time, and I appreciate all the support.”