IMSA: July 4 race at Daytona will have limited crowd; masks required

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Daytona International Speedway announced Tuesday that up to 5,000 fans will be permitted to attend the IMSA WeatherTech Championship race July 4.

All guests must be residents of Florida and adhere to multiple safety protocols. They include temperature checks before entering the venue, required wearing of face coverings and social distancing at 6 feet between traveling parties.

Seating will be made available in the frontstretch grandstands. The track also will host a limited number of infield camping guests in Turns 1 and 2.

This will be the first IMSA race since the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. The series went on hiatus after the 2020 season opener because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Daytona will become the latest NASCAR-affiliated track to play host to fans. Homestead-Miami Speedway had a crowd of 1,000 military personnel, first responders and their families, and NASCAR announced last week that 5,000 would be allowed Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Bristol Motor Speedway announced Monday night that it would have up to 30,000 for the All-Star Race on July 15.

Here is Daytona International Speedway’s statement on having fans at the IMSA race:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 16, 2020) – Officials at Daytona International Speedway announced today a plan to introduce a return of fans to the iconic venue for the sports car classic IMSA WeatherTech 240 At DAYTONA on Saturday, July 4.

Working closely with public health officials and local, state and federal authorities on amended safety protocols and procedures, the Speedway will offer a limited number of fans – up to 5,000 – to attend the IMSA WeatherTech 240 At DAYTONA with available seating in  the frontstretch grandstands, as well as a limited number of infield camping guests. All must be Florida residents, and will adhere to social distancing guidelines.

This IMSA WeatherTech 240 At DAYTONA, part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, will be showcased on the 3.56-mile high-banked tri-oval/infield road course. The highly anticipated event will take the green flag at 6:05 pm ET on Independence Day and end under the lights. The limited camping spots will be located in NASCAR’s Turns 1 & 2 areas of the infield (GEICO Grounds Yellow RV and Yellow Premium RV), near the Carousel Turn. Those fans will be required to watch the race from their RV site.

The IMSA WeatherTech 240 At DAYTONA is the first event in IMSA’s return to racing in 2020.

For ticketing information on the IMSA WeatherTech 240 At DAYTONA, fans are urged to visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or call 1-800-PIT-SHOP.

“We’ve waited a long time to welcome our loyal race fans back to Daytona International Speedway and the Daytona Beach area,” said Chip Wile, DIS President. “There has been a lot of work and extensive planning by our track staff, IMSA, government and health officials, as well as NASCAR to methodically bring fans back to our historic facility. Rest assured we will make sure that every fan in attendance is safe and can enjoy the excitement of the IMSA WeatherTech 240 At DAYTONA. Having the IMSA sports cars back for this summer tradition just got more exciting with fans here to see it.”

All guests who attend the IMSA WeatherTech 240 At DAYTONA will be screened before entering the facility, required to wear face coverings and maintain six-feet of social distancing throughout the venue.

The IMSA WeatherTech 240 At DAYTONA brings a midsummer IMSA race back to Daytona International Speedway after a 10-year hiatus. The 2 hour, 40-minute IMSA WeatherTech 240 At DAYTONA will consist of three WeatherTech Championship classes – Daytona Prototype (DPi), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD). Daytona previously held summer sports car events from 1967-1985, 2000, and 2002-2010.

The last IMSA summer race at Daytona was in 2010 when co-drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas were victorious in a BMW Riley. This year’s event will be televised live on NBCSN.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.