Kurt Busch (1) leads the pack when the green flag is flipped at the start of the NASCAR Cup Series car race at Charlotte Motor Speedway Sunday, May 24, 2020, in Concord, NC (AP Photo / Gerry Broome)
CONCORD, NC – Chris "Pops" Bowyer was sitting in a lawn chair, wearing a plain white t-shirt and drinking a beer with Ms. Jana and her friends in front of their motor home, a few hundred meters from Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Bowyer knew that he would not board the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday to see his cup driver son Clint's race, but decided to do the hike from Kansas to be close to the action.
"Well, we're here," said Bowyer, while Dog Hank was lying on the grass near his feet. "The kid is racing, so we're here."
Clint's mother Jana added: "We don't like it. We want to be where we can watch, but we can't."
Jana Bowyer is certainly not alone with these feelings. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, NASCAR will not let its races go until further notice. The only people who saw the race were those who worked on it and those who lived in the Turn One condominiums on the track.
But the Bowyers still came and temporarily stayed at Jerome Little's Route 29 Pavilion RV campground and entertainment center, which is directly opposite the Speedway. For the Bowyers, it was a dual purpose journey: they wanted to spend time with an old friend who suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease) and wanted to be there to support their son.
Since the camping site is not owned by CMS, Little was allowed to accommodate those in mobile homes while promoting social distance.
In a normal year, it houses about 175 campers and two acres of cars on its property. There were only a handful of cars on the property on Sunday, and these belonged to media representatives. But there were 33 RVs on his properties, with racing fans coming from New York, Texas, and Maine.
"These fans are engaged and come from all over the country," said Little.
Like many across the country, Little suffered a financial blow because fans were excluded from the sport, but the third generation owner of the campsite said, "Honestly, I just feel terrible for racing fans."
If you didn't know better, you would never know that one of the most popular NASCAR races was in the city.
As the "crown jewel race" of the series, CMS attracted more than 100,000 fans to the event that started in 1960. But on Sunday it was incredibly quiet and more like a ghost town than the epicenter of the NASCAR world.
Bruton Smith Boulevard, which is usually busy on race day, was practically empty except for an occasional passing car or truck.
The hundreds of North Carolina State Troopers who lined the entrance paths to the route and the vendors who sold NASCAR t-shirts, hats and flags were absent. There were no pedestrians crossing the sidewalks, no bands playing music off the track, which contributed to an extremely calm atmosphere. All of the Charlotte Motor Speedway campsites were closed and empty.
The Coca-Cola 600 advertising signs, which are usually affixed to the front of restaurants during the racing week, were not available. Restaurants like Hooters, Twin Peaks, and Iron Thunder Saloon, which are usually full on race day, were half empty just two days after the state entered the "second phase" of its coronavirus recovery plan, making it 50 percent capacity and plentiful Restrictions could be opened.
"We are usually full of NASCAR fans," said Mindy Segovia, general manager of Iron Thunder Saloon, about a mile from the track. I figured the fans would go out on the racetrack and hang out off the track, but they don't allow that either. So we lose a lot of money. "
Mike Dishong did not plan to travel to Solomons Island, Maryland after learning that fans were not allowed to participate in the race.
But when his 7-year-old grandson Carson, who lives a few miles from the track, asked his grandparents at FaceTime last week to come to Charlotte anyway and watch the race on TV and hear the roar of the engines from Little & # 39; s campsite, he and his wife Peggy could not refuse.
"That's what racing is all about – family, friends and being together," said Dishong. "It brought us together, even though we won't be on the track. We have fun."
Jana Bowyer understands.
She is sad that son Clint does not have the support of his family on the line.
"He hates that his family, wife and children cannot come," said Jana Bowyer. "And that also applies to all fans. It's part of his racing day when he meets the fans, shakes hands and signs autographs. So everyone is missing out. "
Chris Bowyer added, "If the driver's family cannot come, it is difficult. We are here to support him. This is a dangerous sport and things happen."
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