It’s Full Speed Ahead for NHRA at Gainesville, Florida, Amid Coronavirus Fears

The NHRA is moving ahead with the AMALIE Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida, March 12-15.

And, yes, by all accounts and per one of the lures of any NHRA weekend, drivers will still be mingling with the fans and signing autographs during the race weekend.

Racing series all over the world are wrestling with how best to deal with coronavirus fears in the racing communities they visit. This week, the MotoGP series announced it was postponing its April 3-5 trip to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. That postponement is probably cause for at least discussion among officials within the NTT IndyCar Series, which is scheduled to race at COTA on April 26.

Formula 1 has already postponed a race in China and announced that it will race without fans at the track in Bahrain on April 22.

So far, NASCAR has not seen its schedule affected.

IMSA has a doubleheader with the European-based World Endurance Championship at Sebring, Florida, on March 18-21. That’s a race weekend with a decidedly international flavor that could have officials dealing with some difficult questions.

“As with any public outing, it’s important that all attendees follow the CDC’s recommendations.”

For now, anyway, it’s also business as usual for the NHRA.

In a statement to its fans on the NHRA website:

“NHRA does not anticipate any schedule interruptions during the 51st annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. We are actively monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and following all recommendations via direct communication with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We are also working closely with the Florida Department of Health and the City of Gainesville to ensure the well-being of everyone attending the event.

“As with any public outing, it’s important that all attendees follow the CDC’s recommendations to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases including frequent handwashing, using hand sanitizer and appropriately covering coughs and sneezes.

“NHRA has installed additional hand sanitizing and hand washing units throughout the event site to make it easier for attendees to actively practice these precautions. We are also increasing our cleanliness procedures including frequently disinfecting high-traffic surface areas.”

Individual teams within the NHRA are proceeding with caution.

“Within our pit area, we will be cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces and frequently washing our hands with soap and water,” a KB Racing spokesperson said. “We do not have a hospitality area, but KB Racing drivers will be interacting with fans as normal this weekend in Gainesville.

“Fans are welcome to approach the ropes, as always, and as drivers find a good stopping point in their work, they will sign autographs. That being said, we don’t expect much downtime this weekend as the team works to prepare, tune and maintain Chevrolet Camaro Pro Stock cars for Summit Racing drivers Greg Anderson and Jason Line, as well as Bo Butner, Matt Hartford, Deric Kramer and Kyle Koretsky, who will be making his debut in the Nitro Fish Chevy.”

At Don Schumacher Racing, home of Top Fuel dragster drivers Antron Brown and Leah Pruett, and Funny Car pilots Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Beckman, the caution flag is also out.

“Our position is that if any team member, whether it be a driver, crew member, front office staff, etc., would prefer to limit contact such as handshakes or things of that nature with fans, vendors, guests (during the coronavirus scare), DSR fully supports that team member’s decision,” a team spokesperson said. “For drivers, at this point, it’s at each individual’s discretion.

“We’ve suggested that drivers sign hero cards ahead of time for the fans.”

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