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

David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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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.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”