Updated, March 12, 2020 at 1:15 p.m.: As major sports leagues and event organizers large and small nationwide canceled events on Thursday, the National Hot Rod Association canceled the remaining Gatornationals drag racing events scheduled for this weekend.
NHRA postpones portion of Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals pic.twitter.com/HHnZbzAXx9
— #NHRA (@NHRA) March 12, 2020
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Original story, March 11, 2020:
The National Hot Rod Association will host its 51st annual drag race, Gatornationals, at the Gainesville Raceway from Thursday to Sunday.
Close to 100,000 fans will be coming into Gainesville over the course of four days to witness this drag racing event.
With COVID-19 cases rising in Florida, Kasey Coler, the vice president of track operations for the NHRA, said they don’t plan to cancel despite recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to abstain from large group events.
“We never got to the level of canceling the event. Our ticket sales have been at the level of at least the past year or even higher,” Coler said. “For us, it was a sense of ‘Our fans want to be here. They want to be out doing events.'”
Don Bell, fan of the sport for 35 years and Gatornationals gate security guard, said that NRHA will be extra cautious during the event.
“As long as we’re paying attention to what we’re doing and keeping our hands washed and things like that,” Bell said. “You just have to take precautions.”
The NHRA has set up precautions for the event such as increased wash and sanitation stations, public messaging to both fans and third-party vendors and increased cleaning of the venue.
There will be approximately 500 drivers racing. Coler said the event’s timing amid the viral outbreak hasn’t stopped any drivers yet.
“We’ve been in conversations with the teams and drivers and haven’t had a single driver who decided to not attend or not participate,” he said.
The race will still take place with qualifying races on Friday and Saturday followed by finals on Sunday.