20,000 attend NASCAR race in likely largest sports event since pandemic began: report

Approximately 20,000 people appeared to attend the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn., on Wednesday as NASCAR held its All-Star Race, a local NBC affiliate reported, the largest in-person event since the state banned large crowds four months ago in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The venue can accommodate more than 140,000 spectators, but social distancing measures limited attendance. The privately owned Motor Speedway does not plan to release official numbers, but NBC News reported it was the largest crowd at a U.S. sporting event since March.

Tennessee is one of several states in the nation experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases. On Monday, the state reported its highest one-day increase of cases, more than 2,500, with another 2,000 reported Wednesday, according to The New York Times.

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) has signaled that he does not plan to scale back reopening measures, as other states such as Texas and Mississippi have done, the Tennessean reported this week.

The NASCAR All-Star Race was won by Chase Elliot, the son of retired competitor Bill Elliot. The younger Elliot also won races in Charlotte, N.C., in the Cup Series and Truck Series, which took place with no fans in the stands.

“Tonight felt like an event again, and I felt like we’ve been missing that piece for a couple months,” Elliott told NBC. “It felt good to have NASCAR back. NASCAR is about the fans. I felt like the vibe was back.”

Other major sporting events, such as the NCAA's annual basketball tournament, have been canceled this year, and leagues including the NBA and MLB are working on holding abbreviated or otherwise adjusted seasons.