The White Zone: Everything’s back to normal in NASCAR

LEBANON, Tenn. — A mix of clouds against a baby blue backdrop hovered over Nashville Superspeedway. RVs parked themselves in the spots near the catch fence. Crew members pushed cars from the garage onto pit road. Cars trickled into the grass lots that surround the track. People roamed the garage and pits and masks were few and far between.

For the first time in nearly a year-and-a-half, life in the NASCAR world is normal, again.

The White Zone: Everything’s back to normal in NASCAR

The drive in

I pulled onto the property just before 8 a.m. CT (to watch some Formula 1), and drove right to my designated parking lot behind the backstretch. No temperature checks, symptom surveys or masks. Just grabbed my backpack, hopped on a Talladega Superspeeedway tram and rode it to a tram stop outside of Turn 1.

Being two hours before qualifying and over six before the green flag of the Ally 400, not much pedestrian activity went on, as I walked to the press box.

With this being the first NASCAR race weekend without COVID restrictions, I was no longer land-locked to the press box. I went up to it, anyway, however, because I can watch the actual race from up high. Whereas in the deadline room, I’m watching it on TV.

The White Zone: Everything’s back to normal in NASCAR

The sights and sounds

Roughly 45,000 fans not stuck in traffic traversed Nashville Superspeedway, prior to the green flag. Some took their seats in the hot Sun. Others sat in the shade to escape the hot Sun. The rest canvassed the fan zone to shop at the haulers.

You get three chances to guess whose was most crowded, and the first two don’t count.

Even during the Ally 400, fans crowded the concourse and concession stand lines.

The White Zone: Everything’s back to normal in NASCAR

Media access

LEBANON, Tenn. – JUNE 20: NFL player Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints speaks to the media during the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 20, 2021, in Lebanon, Tennessee. Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images

Now this part is only of interest to people like myself, but this was the first NASCAR weekend in over a year in which media access wasn’t done over Zoom.

After races, we went out onto pit road and interviewed drivers from the media bullpen. This is something I never did, previously, because I didn’t work a NASCAR weekend from 2019 to halfway through the 2020 season.

No longer are we confined to Zoom. We can converse with drivers and industry insiders face-to-face, or press box to deadline room.

The White Zone: Everything’s back to normal in NASCAR

That’s all, folks!

LEBANON, Tenn. – JUNE 20: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 Valvoline Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Ally 400 at Nashville Superspeedway on June 20, 2021, in Lebanon, Tennessee. Photo: Logan Riely/Getty Images

As “Back In Black” by AC/DC played over the loud speakers and Kyle Larson celebrated victory, I rode back to Lot 4 to hop in my car and join Chris Knight, Jim Utter and Jerry Jordan for dinner.

Even more than my first NASCAR race in over two years and first Cup Series race in even longer, I truly felt like, as far as NASCAR’s concerned, the pandemic was behind us.

That’s my view, for what it’s worth.

TOP IMAGE: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images


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