TALLADEGA, Ala. – As NASCAR slowly works its way back into the business of having fans in attendance at races, you might wonder what it’s like to be a fan at one of these events.
FOX8 Photojournalist Chris Weaver bought tickets to attend the Talladega NASCAR CUP Series race with his two sons and found out first-hand how the experience isn’t too much different than normal.
The formalities of getting into the grandstands on race day are a little different, with temperature checks, face masks and scannable tickets.
Coolers aren’t allowed. Instead, you can bring a clear bag that can be checked quickly and can contain ice, drinks and food.
The fans that attend NASCAR races are wild. The fans at Talladega Superspeedway are the wildest, like the group from just east of Atlanta who come to this race every chance they get.
“I haven’t been to a race in a year but I’m finally back and I love it. I’m here for it,” said Drew Davis, a Chase Elliott fan like most of the people with him.
This was the moment they’ve been waiting for all year, and in true Talladega style, it didn’t disappoint. A caution on lap one to start the day that would see a record number of cautions, 58 lead changes, two red flags and a wild finish that people will remember for years.
With restrictions in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the track could only allow about 15,000 fans instead of the usual number — more than 150,000. And the signs reminding people to social distance and keep the masks on were everywhere.
“It’s definitely way less crowded but we’re still having a good time out here at ‘Dega. We love it, we’re here for it, glad to be back,” said Drew Davis.
Also glad to be back, the Thomas family from Montgomery, Alabama.
Jesse Thomas, his wife, their three kids and a handful of nieces and nephews are continuing a tradition that his grandmother started 30 years ago.
“Just the time to see the excitement, the time we spend together as a family just how they experience new things. They’ve never been to a racecar race, never even seen it on TV, so it’s a new experience for them,” said Jesse Thomas.
And then there’s Leslie Howard. She’s a Bubba Wallace fan. When Bubba was out front leading laps, she was on top of the world.
“It was like a semi-victory for me because of my nationality. It’s a struggle with it,” Howard said. As a Black NASCAR fan, she’s hoping Wallace can find victory lane soon, and she’s excited about his future with the new team owned by Michael Jordan.
But no matter who wins this race, at the end of the day, everyone is having a great time.
“Honestly it’s the best thing I’ve done all year. We waited all year for this,” said Alex Smith, a Chase Elliott fan from Georgia.
They hope they won’t have to wait another year to attend their next race.
“We’ve just got to be cautious what we do and we can get it back packed like it was,” said Leslie Howard.
Everyone we talked to has plans to be at the next race at Talladega or Atlanta, their closest tracks.