Daytona 500 to be held with 'limited' fans in 2021 because of COVID-19 pandemic
Officials with Daytona International Speedway announced Wednesday the number of fans allowed to attend the Daytona 500 will be limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 63rd running of the race is scheduled for Feb. 14.
There is no word yet on whether attendance will be limited for the Rolex 24 At Daytona, scheduled for Jan. 30-31.
While officials at the Speedway, which holds 101,500 spectators, stopped short of putting a number on what the reduced capacity would look like, the two most recent Daytona Cup Series races in August — the Go Bowling 235 and Coke Zero Sugar 400 — had estimated crowds of 10,000 and 25,000, respectively.
As a result of the reduced capacity, the Speedway said it would work to accommodate guests who have already purchased tickets to the 2021 Daytona 500, adding that many fans would be "reseated" in new locations to adhere to social distancing.
The reseating process is expected to be complete by early January.
"The Daytona 500 is one of the greatest spectacles in all of sports, and fans from all over the world converge in Daytona Beach to be a part of motorsport’s biggest day,” Daytona International Speedway President Chip Wile said.
“While we won’t be able to have a capacity crowd here in February, we are excited that we can host the Daytona 500 with those in attendance, as well as for the millions who will tune in live on FOX."
Similar to the circumstances in August, all fans will be screened before entering the facility and will be required to wear face coverings while maintaining six feet social distancing throughout their visit.
The pandemic shut NASCAR down in early March. The racing circuit returned in May with a jumbled schedule and fanless races. Spectators were not allowed back to the tracks until July and capacity has been purposely reduced since, with the season ending on schedule Nov. 8 when Chase Elliott was crowned champion.
The other Cup events during Speedweeks, including the Busch Clash and Duel qualifying races, will also be held with limited fans, as will the Xfinity, Truck and ARCA races.
Entry into Daytona's infield will also be limited, but premium and extended-stay camping packages are still available, the Speedway said.
Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.DAYTONA500.com/updates or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
While it won't be a sellout, Wile said he still expects the season's biggest race to have the same atmosphere it always has.
"The Great American Race will once again have the aura and atmosphere that fans have come to know and love," he said. "From the pageantry of our pre-race festivities to the rumble of 40 engines roaring around the high banks, it’s the biggest stage in motorsports.”
2021 Speedweeks schedule
Tuesday, Feb. 9: Busch Clash (road course)
Wednesday, Feb. 10: Daytona 500 Qualifying
Thursday, Feb. 11: Duel At Daytona qualifying races
Friday, Feb. 12: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy 250
Saturday, Feb. 13: NASCAR Xfinity Series NASCAR Racing Experience 300; ARCA Lucas Oil 200
Sunday, Feb. 14: 63rd running of the Daytona 500