June 15 (Reuters) - NASCAR moved its showcase July 15 All-Star race to Bristol from its traditional Charlotte Motor Speedway home on Monday and plans to allow up to 30,000 spectators to attend the event.
The race was shifted to Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in North Carolina.
“While Charlotte will always be recognised as the birthplace and traditional home for the All-Star Race, the current data surrounding the pandemic in North Carolina makes Bristol a better option for fan access this summer,” Speedway Motorsports President and CEO Marcus Smith said in a release.
NBC Sports quoted Smith as saying up to 30,000 fans could be spread out across the 155,000 capacity Bristol grandstands for the race.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday that it was an opportunity to bring in new fans to the sport.
“We want fans to be at the racetrack. We want new fans to be at the track,” he added.
NASCAR was the first of North America’s major sports to return to action after the coronavirus shutdown with a race on May 17 at an empty Darlington Raceway.
Several races have been held since, including one on Sunday at Homestead Miami Speedway where 1,000 spectators were allowed in to the sprawling grandstands.
As many as 4,000 will be able to attend this weekend’s event at Alabama’s Talladega Super Speedway. (Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Peter Rutherford)