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N.C. Speaker urges Governor to allow NASCAR to race at Charlotte

AUTO: MAY 26 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series - Coca-Cola 600

CHARLOTTE, NC - MAY 26: The field races through turn four during the 60th Annual Monster Energy Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 on May 26, 2019, at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC.(Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A day after five North Carolina Republican senators called on Gov. Roy Cooper to allow NASCAR to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway without fans and Tim Moore, Speaker of the House of the North Carolina General Assembly, issued a letter to the governor “to permit Charlotte Motor Speedway to host NASCAR races without fans on Memorial Day weekend.”

Also, the Texas Governor said he had talks with NASCAR leaders on Monday about the series racing at Texas Motor Speedway.

The May 16 All-Star Race and May 24 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway are the next scheduled Cup races after NASCAR postponed the May 9 Cup race at Martinsville Speedway on Friday.

North Carolina is under a stay-at-home order through April 29 that has closed race shops. The North Carolina order from Gov. Cooper bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other. The order requires all residents to stay at home except for essential activities. The order states: “non-essential business and operations must cease.”

Until teams can return to their shops to prepare, they won’t be able to race.

In his letter, Speaker Moore wrote: “Our state must find appropriate measures to reopen our economy and begin a full recovery as soon as possible. Allowing NASCAR to return Memorial Day Weekend without fans would not only benefit the motorsports industry that calls our state home, it would mark a rebeginning for North Carolina’s tourism, entertainment and service industries that are desperate to open for business.

“Other states like Florida have stepped up to invite NASCAR to return in a safe manner as soon as practicable. North Carolina should take this opportunity to show our state will take commonsense safety measures to reopen our economy and renew a sense of normalcy for millions of citizens who are hurting.

“I urge you to amend your Executive Orders to permit Charlotte Motor Speedway to host the Coca-Cola 600 and accompanying races on Memorial Day Weekend.”

In a statement from Gov. Cooper’s spokesperson Monday: “Governor Cooper knows the importance of NASCAR to our state and he’s already been talking with track and team owners about how we could potentially restart racing. It’s too soon to predict specific decisions about future sporting events but any plan would prioritize public health and safety and preventing spread of the virus.”

Marcus Smith, chief executive officer of Speedway Motorsports, which owns Charlotte Motor Speedway, said in a statement: “Our desire is to run the Coca-Cola 600 with fans as originally scheduled on May 24, but we realize these are unprecedented circumstances and the parameters surrounding public gatherings remain a primary consideration. We look forward to working with Gov. Cooper in an effort that will allow race fans to once again enjoy action on the track as we all work through these challenging times. For 60 years, this race has been a Memorial Day Weekend tradition at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and we want to do everything possible to support NASCAR, the dozens of race teams in North Carolina and the fans to get back on track. We will work with the governor, state and local government and health officials to make that happen.”

In a media briefing Monday, Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, stated that North Carolina has had 6,764 COVID-19 cases in the state’s 93 counties (as confirmed by lab testing). She also stated that 373 people with the coronavirus are currently hospitalized.

Cohen said that there have been 179 deaths in the state from COVID-19. She noted that the state’s first death from the coronavirus was March 24 and in the month since the deaths from COVID-19 have topped the state’s flu deaths of 167 during the flu season, which started in September.

“Increasing our testing capacity is something that is really important,” Cohen of easing of restrictions. “I want to make sure we know that there two parts to the testing: The sample collection as well as running those samples in the lab. We need to increase both.”

Other keys, she said, will be looking at data and what trends show along with being able to trace how individuals were infected.

Also Monday afetrnoon, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday that he had talks with NASCAR about racing at Texas Motor Speedway and said he hopes “to announce the exciting details in the near future.”

Smith thanked Gov. Abbott for his support.

Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage issued a statement Monday after Texas Gov. Abbott’s tweet:
“Texas Governor Greg Abbott has given NASCAR the green flag to race, and our sport is eager to get back on track. Texas Motor Speedway will work aggressively with the sanctioning bodies and TV networks to give American society, as well as people around the world, a positive distraction during this crisis. A non-spectator event is not perfect because in our sport, the fans come first. But circumstances are such that this is a novel answer for the return of the sport for now. We are now working on a hard date.

“Our sport is unique because the competitors are inside the race cars with no body-to-body contact like most other sports. That is a distinct advantage over other sports and why you will likely see auto racing as the first live sport returning to action. We appreciate the Governor’s support for the return of racing at Texas Motor Speedway very soon. He’s been to the races here before and has been an admirable leader throughout this crisis.”