Lot of room for NASCAR fans at Texas due to virus and heat

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FILE - In this Nov. 3, 2019, file photo, Kevin Harvick (4) and Aric Almirola (10) battle for position during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway, in Fort Worth, Texas. The massive grandstands at Texas Motor Speedway stretch about 2/3 of a mile long, and were empty for the last race there. There could still be some feeling of emptiness Sunday, preferable for social distancing, even when the NASCAR Cup Series race becomes the first major sporting event in Texas in more than four months to allow spectators. It will be one of the largest gatherings of any kind in the state since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Larry Papke, File)

FORT WORTH, Texas – The massive grandstands at Texas Motor Speedway are 2/3 of a mile long and were empty for the last race there.

On Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series race becomes the first major sporting event in Texas in more than four months to allow spectators. It could be one of the largest gatherings of any kind in the state since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Just how many show up on a hot day with the virus still raging is another question.

“It can absorb a lot of people and you never cross paths with another soul,” track president Eddie Gossage said of the facility 20 miles north of downtown Fort Worth.

In Tennessee, Bristol was allowed to sell up to 30,000 tickets, about 20% of its capacity of 140,000-plus, and appeared to have at least 20,000 spectators for NASCAR's All-Star race Wednesday night. Speedway Motorsports, which owns Bristol and Texas, is a private company like NASCAR, and does not release official attendance numbers.

Texas has about 135,000 seats and under plans approved by the state could allow as much as 50% capacity. But there isn't expected to be anywhere close to the possible 67,500 or so spectators. The crowd Sunday will more likely be similar to the one seen Wednesday night at its sister track.

“To be perfectly honest, I think the place is going to look mostly empty,” Gossage said, without giving or confirming any specific numbers. “We’re a different configuration than Bristol, and so they won’t stand out as much as they did at Bristol, even if we have the same number of people.”

Frontstretch seating at the 1 1/2-mile Texas track alone is longer than the entire length of Bristol’s half-mile track, where “The Last Great Colosseum” is shaped as a massive bowl.