NASCAR announced Thursday that it will no longer require masks in the competition footprint, meaning in the infield and garage area, while outdoors for races starting this weekend at Dover International Speedway.
Masks have been required outdoors for individuals in the competition area, which includes team members and NASCAR officials, since returning to racing amid the pandemic almost exactly one year ago.
Masks are still required inside buildings, haulers or any other enclosed spaces and where state or local mandates necessitate mask use, according to NASCAR’s updated Event Operational Protocol.
“Going forward, our focus is on encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and preventing the indoor spread of COVID-19,” the statement read.
Drivers are not required to be vaccinated, but NASCAR expanded its infield reopening last Sunday at Darlington to include 350 fully vaccinated guests and sponsors, as well as a small number of media members. Guests will not be permitted in the infield this weekend at Dover, but the footprint is expected to expand to 550 guests at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Texas and for the Coca-Cola 600 race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in late-May, according to the Associated Press.
Dover is also hosting walk-up vaccinations at the speedway this weekend during the Xfinity and Cup races on Saturday and Sunday.
NASCAR said that fans in attendance at races must continue to adhere to mask mandates from the tracks working with local and state officials. For the races at Dover, the Delaware Division of Public Health has approved up to 20,000 fans, or around 37 percent of the track’s grandstand seating capacity, and face coverings are required.
Daytona, Darlington, Kansas and Pocono recently announced that their grandstands will open to full capacity for races later this year, with Nashville and Atlanta planning the same for races this summer. Nissan Stadium, which host Nashville’s MLS team, announced last week that masks are longer required outdoors.
On Thursday, the CDC updated its COVID-19 guidelines saying that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a face mask indoors or outdoors, in most settings. The announcement came a few hours after NASCAR’s Protocol update, but a NASCAR spokesperson told the Observer that there will not be any additional changes to its protocols for this weekend at Dover.