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An unusual race week at and around Charlotte Motor Speedway

By David Whisenant | October 6, 2020 at 3:09 PM EDT – Updated October 6 at 3:31 PM

CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) – For the first time this year, some fans will be allowed to attend a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord. About 6600 fans will be allowed to attend the Bank of America ROVAL 400 on Sunday, and the races on Saturday. COVID-19 protocols will be in place.

In a way it was like a regular race week at and near the track. Fans disagreeing over their favorite drivers is common, and it’s common during race week to see Cup drivers like Daniel Suarez doing an appearance at the track, even if it is a virtual appearance.

What’s not so common is seeing so many empty spaces in the campground. The Caulfields from Virginia don’t have a lot of neighbors in the campground this week, but they’re happy.

“I’m totally excited about it,” said Karen Calufield. “I’m so happy that we’re able to come.”

“They’re visitors, and we have not had visitors since March, and we are so excited to be able to have visitors back to the speedway,” Said Donna Carpenter is with the Cabarrus Convention Visitors Bureau. “Now that the governor moved us forward, we are excited to say that people have started to move about, they’re hungry to travel.”

Carpenter says the pandemic and the cancellation of so many local events really hurt the local economy. She says now that North Carolina is in Phase 3, there are some promising signs.

And those traveling to the track will be expected to wear a mask, have a temperature check, social distance, and follow other protocols.

“And know that we are putting those in place so that once you walk through the gate you can exhale and really enjoy the experience and not have to worry about the pandemic and whether or not you’re going to be safe while you’re with us here on property,” said Jonathan Coleman of Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Coleman suggested fans check out the speedway web site to learn about what restrictions that will be in place, and pointed out five big storylines for this weekend’s race:

Chasing a Championship: The only certainty with the ROVAL™ in recent years has been that nothing is certain. With the second round of the NASCAR Playoffs coming to a close following Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL™ 400, several drivers on both sides of the cut line will be fighting for survival when they take to the innovative 2.28-mile circuit at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Only 11 points separate the fifth through eighth-place drivers in the playoff hunt, and Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon are both just 21 points behind eighth place Joey Logano. While currently 37 points below the cutoff, don’t count Clint Bowyer out as the laps wind down. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has finished third and fourth at the ROVAL™ in the previous two seasons and could upset the current Playoff picture with a win.

Xfinity Series Playoff Picture: With just three points separating Ross Chastain and Michael Annett for the final transfer spot, fireworks are sure to fly at Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 250 presented by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina, the first round cutoff race in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series Playoffs. But Chastain and Annett won’t be the only drivers fighting for a playoff berth. Ryan Sieg (+23) and Justin Allgaier (+15) will have to avoid trouble to cement their spot in Round Two, while Harrison Burton (-6) and Brandon Brown (-19) will look for a strong showing to fight their way into the Round of Eight. Every lap matters, especially in an elimination race.

IMSA Debut at the ROVAL™: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT classes will make their ROVAL™ debut Oct. 9 and 10, adding to an action-packed Saturday double-header at America’s Home for Racing that also includes the NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 250. The inaugural two-day IMSA event will include a 60-minute WeatherTech Championship practice session for both the GTLM and GTD series on Friday night and a 100-minute Motul 100% Synthetic Grand Prix on Saturday night under the lights. Competition will encompass all 17 turns of the technical 2.28-mile course, combining the tight corners of a world-class road course with the high-speed finesse of oval track racing.

Jimmie Johnson’s Final Race at Charlotte: Long before he was a household name, Jimmie Johnson made his NASCAR Cup Series debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2001. Two decades later, he will strap in to his now iconic No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports machine for the final time at Charlotte as a full-time Cup Series driver. Over the course of his Hall of Fame career, the seven-time Cup Series champion amassed a record eight Cup Series points victories and four NASCAR All-Star Race wins at the 1.5-mile speedway that was dubbed “Jimmie’s House” in the mid-2000s. Johnson’s resume boasts four Coca-Cola 600 wins (2003, 2004, 2005, 2014), four Bank of America 500 wins (2004, 2005, 2009, 2016) and four All-Star wins (203, 2006, 2012, 2013). Can he rekindle the magic and make one final run to the checkered flag?

Elliott’s Continued Dominance: When it comes to road course racing of late, no one has been more dominant than Chase Elliott. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver has won each of the last three road races, including an incredible finish in the 2019 Bank of America ROVAL™ 400 that saw the Hendrick Motorsport driver charge to the front of the field late after crashing into the Tums Heartburn Turn. To celebrate his thrilling finish, Elliott returned to the scene of the accident for his burnout. With a race as unpredictable as the ROVAL™, there is never a clear favorite. But given his recent success turning left and right, it should surprise no one to see the No. 9 machine near the front of the pack in the closing laps on Sunday.

While there are no tickets available for Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL™ 400, tickets remain for Saturday’s racing doubleheader, featuring the Drive for the Cure 250 presented by BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina NASCAR Xfinity Series showdown and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar GT Championship Series’ Motul 100% Synthetic Grand Prix. Adult tickets are just $50; kids 13 and under get in free. To purchase, visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or call 800-455-FANS (3267).

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