A very different Coca-Cola 600 for fans and competitors

Iconic race set to to with no fans in grandstands, strict coronavirus protocols

A very different Coca-Cola 600 for fans and competitors
The 61st Coca-Cola 600 will be run on Sunday without fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: David Whisenant)

CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - The green flag dropped on one of the biggest professional sporting events in the Charlotte area, but very few fans get to witness it in person.

Sunday is the 61st running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but there are no fans in the stands because of the restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic.

At the Ver-El Campground right across Highway 29 from the Speedway, the only race anyone watched in person was Mike Dishong’s grandsons running a sprint through the parking lot.

“This is as close as we can get," said Dishong, who drove his camper from Baltimore to Concord, “They live in Charlotte. We’re going to sit out as a family and watch it on TV and make the best out of it."

Around the property of Charlotte Motor Speedway, there were empty parking lots, signs warning not to tailgate and the spot normally reserved for colorful souvenir trailers was empty.

It’s that way for the race teams too.

“It feels different because there’s no people, no people in the garage area, no one n the stands, very low key atmosphere," said Derrike Cope, a former NASCAR driver and current partner of the NASCAR Cup Series StarCom Racing team.

Cope said the one good thing for competitors is that once the race starts, it feels a little more normal. In his race shop in Salisbury, everyone wears a mask and there are temperature checks.

Cope thinks NASCAR has done a good job and is riding the momentum of being the first major pro sport to start up again.

“They reached out to all the, you know, very knowledgeable people that would be in a position, from the CDC on to all of the states and the counties to really stay within the guidelines and the parameters and create a protocol that was going to be conducive to keeping all of our employees safe and healthy," Cope said.

Even though they can’t go enjoy the Speedway in person, fans in the nearby campground areas told WBTV that they are still glad to be there, and that NASCAR has returned to live racing.

“When you’ve got family, friends, it’s always a good time," Mike Dishong said.

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