NASCAR has postponed its next two race weekends, calling off events at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the series announced Friday.
“We believe this decision is in the best interest of the safety and well-being of our fans, competitors, officials and everyone associated with our sport,” NASCAR said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor this dynamic situation as we assess future race events.”
The next scheduled Cup Series race is March 29 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson supported the cancellation of immediate racing.
“We want to race as much as you want us to race but this is the right decision,” Johnson wrote on Twitter. “This is so much bigger than sports right now and the health and safety of our fans, industry members and the overall public is top priority.”
Before Friday’s announcement, NASCAR had planned to hold the races without fans in attendance and had put measures in place to limit access to drivers.
It was a wild, confusing scene at the Atlanta Motor Speedway garage on Friday morning.
After every other major sports organization had canceled or postponed seasons and events during the week, NASCAR and IndyCar had chosen to run their respective racing weekends at AMS and in the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, without fans and with strict no-direct-contact policies in place for media covering the events. They would have been the nation’s only major sporting events.
But around 11:30 a.m. Friday, as NASCAR drivers and crews were preparing their cars for the weekend, they were told by officials to pack up and head home.
Ten minutes later, NASCAR issued its statement.
Moments later, IndyCar announced the cancellation of all events through April: St. Petersburg; Birmingham, Alabama; Austin; and the previously postponed Long Beach Grand Prix.
As NASCAR haulers pulled out of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, nearby campgrounds usually filled with fans making a weekend out of the race were still lined with recreational vehicles.
“Well, all the grocery stores are full of people panicking, and if I get home there ain’t nothing to do but to be locked up at home, so I might as well sit out here,” said Mike Crowe of Conyers, Georgia, about an hour’s drive from the track. “I’ve got a camper full of beer and food and satellite TV, so I can just camp and make the best of it.”
Crowe, a retired fireman, offered lukewarm support of the decision to postpone the race.
“Well, I wish they would have held the event, I really do, but I guess I have to support them,” he said. “They’ve probably got more information than I do about this stuff. I’m just disappointed.”
Stacy Jones, who said he’s had the same camping spot for almost 10 years, said he wasn’t too disappointed since he had expected Sunday’s race to be rained out.
“They told us our money will go toward next year’s event,” Jones said. “We come every year anyway. We just won’t have to pay next year.”
As college and professional sports leagues canceled events or postponed their seasons one by one, NASCAR, IndyCar and F1 were among the very few organizations planning to press ahead this weekend. Finally, even the prospect of staging races without fans was deemed to be unsafe.
There was no announcement from either NASCAR or IndyCar on rescheduling races.
Information from ESPN’s Ryan McGee and The Associated Press was used in this report.