Race Weekend Central

Dropping the Hammer: COVID Again Looms Over NASCAR

Things were going so well.

The world was returning to a vaguely defined “normal.”

After not attending a NASCAR race as a member of the press in 18 months, after getting vaccinated as soon as it was available to my age demographic, I got to cover the June race weekend at Nashville Superspeedway.

No masks. No social distancing.

Through all of 2020 and the first 16 races of 2021, I had missed out on the strictest COVID-19 restrictions — empty grandstands, temperature checks, no infield entry and confinement to the press box. I’d watched from my living room couch.

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For someone who had last covered a race in September 2019 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, covering Nashville was like nothing had changed.

It was as if a once-in-a-century international pandemic that had claimed the lives of roughly 600,000 Americans hadn’t occurred.

Nashville, with the first sold out grandstands since the 2020 Daytona 500, was downright eerie.

If you’re just now tuning into our broadcast, we regret to inform you that the pandemic is not over.

Through a combination of vaccine hesitation — between 14% and 26% of Americans say they have not been vaccinated and will not be vaccinated — fueled by misinformation and the overwhelming surge of the COVID-19 delta variant, the challenges and risks are still very much a reality.

The NASCAR community got its reminder of this last Tuesday (Aug. 9) when the sanctioning body issued a new at-track indoor mask mandate.

Two days later, GMS Racing announced that one of its Truck Series drivers Chase Purdy would miss the weekend’s race at Watkins Glen International. He had tested positive for the virus and was experiencing mild symptoms. The 21-year-old driver was replaced by AJ Allmendinger.

Purdy, a relatively unknown driver, joined the likes of Jimmie Johnson and Austin Dillon who tested positive for COVID since last summer and missed at least one race. Xfinity Series driver Justin Haley missed the May race weekend at Dover after his brother contracted the virus. Soon after, Haley was vaccinated.

On Thursday (Aug. 12), Rick Ware Racing announced JJ Yeley would replace Max Papis in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Indianapolis after Papis tested positive for COVID.

While other sports leagues and teams, like the NFL and MLB, have reported their vaccination rates, here in the NASCAR world we’re not privy to this information. We have to rely on social media or news reports to see if a driver or anyone else of note in the sport is vaxxed.

Sunday morning (Aug. 8) brought the news that two Joe Gibbs Racing pit crew members were being replaced for the Cup race due to coming in close contact with someone with COVID.

This happened on a weekend where Watkins Glen touted its sixth consecutive grandstand sellout (the track didn’t hold a race in 2020 due to the pandemic).

In the wake of Sunday’s race, long-time NASCAR spotter Brett Griffin, someone who I don’t agree with on nearly anything important, made this observation over a photo of race winner Kyle Larson signing autographs amid a group of roughly 20 maskless fans.

NASCAR was the first major sport back in action last spring for one very important reason: Its competitors are isolated from each other during the course of an event.

On top of that, for months drivers were kept out of the garage and stayed in their personal cars or RVs right up until the start of the race. Once they were at the track, they interacted with the fewest people possible.

Of course, NASCAR can only control who does what at the track and teams can limit who goes where and when at their own shops. Anything beyond that is out of their jurisdiction.

But the case of Purdy is significant. He had never finished better than 15th this season, and the only way he would have made the playoffs was with a win Saturday at the Glen.

He never got that chance.

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In the Cup Series, Johnson missed what would have been his final start in the Brickyard 400 last year due to his positive test. While Johnson also had a second-place finish in the Coke 600 disqualified due to an inspection failure, it’s quite possible that missed race kept Johnson from making the playoffs in his farewell season.

There are three races left in the regular season. With the danger of COVID getting worse every day, NASCAR should do everything within its means to keep its potential playoff stars out of harm’s way for the next 13 weekends, even if that means considering a return to keeping drivers confined to quarters at the track until it’s time to race.

As of now, NASCAR is barreling toward an Aug. 27-28 date with one of the worst COVID hotspots in the country.

In two weeks, the sport returns to race in Daytona Beach, Florida, a state currently overseen by a governor who would rather pretend there’s not a pandemic going on. The state added 134,506 new Covid cases from July 30 – Aug. 5. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as of Wednesday (Aug. 11), 15,449 were hospitalized for COVID, an increase of 280 over Tuesday.

The Miami Herald said that COVID patients makeup 47.6% of all ICU patients in reporting Florida facilities.

According to the Herald, “Florida has about 6.5% of the U.S. population, but 20.4% of the nation’s COVID-19 current hospitalizations (down from 20.7% on Tuesday) and 17.5% of its COVID patients in ICUs (down from 17.9%).”

With grandstands at full capacity, roughly 100,000 fans could attend the Cup race at Daytona. I’ll be among the media members gathered for the weekend.

I admit a level of concern, despite being vaccinated.

Last year, short of having the courage to actually conduct COVID tests when they became more widely available, NASCAR did everything right in relation to COVID.

While NASCAR’s re-instituted mask mandate is a good move, not going further could add unnecessary fuel to the pandemic, especially in its home state where it’s burning hotter than ever.

and check out and subscribe to his show “Dropping The Hammer with Daniel McFadin” on YouTube and in podcast form

About the author

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Daniel McFadin is a 10-year veteran of the NASCAR media corp. He wrote for NBC Sports from 2015 to October 2020. He currently works full time for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and is lead reporter and an editor for Frontstretch. He is also host of the NASCAR podcast "Dropping the Hammer with Daniel McFadin" presented by Democrat-Gazette.

You can email him at danielmcfadin@gmail.com.

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John W.

Another leftist frontstretch writer. using the typical lefttist buzzwords such as misinformation. for those that don’t know, misinformation means any information that goes against or even questions the official narrative. its not allowed you see. soon we will be like north korea with photos of fauci all over the place and we will need to bow and praise his face 20 times per day. I’d rather die of covid than live this way.


Buzzwords !! It’s a fact that Florida virus cases Are totally out of control. Drs and hospitals are overwhelmed. What part don’t you comprehend ! How in the world did you lump north Korea into the real world in Florida !


I bet you don’t wear seat belts in your car because you want freedom of choice. I bet you didn’t get the DPaT shot because diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis are “hoaxes” too. Maybe you haven’t got COVID-19 YET. Maybe you had it and didn’t know it and helped spread it to people who gave it to someone else who died. Maybe you’ll get to vote for the con man again.


Maybe monkeys will fly out of my ass.

If he doesn’t wear a seatbelt why do you care? It in no way impacts you.

And, the other vaccines you mention have long histories and survived the rigor of testing. Not the mRNA ‘vaccine’ –which by the way the inventor cautioned but was silenced by the tech oligarchy & government.


What did you say when your mother said, “Eat your carrots. They’re good for you”? You fought seat belts because they infringed on your freedom of choice. And you smoke because you don’t believe the “lie” that smoking is harmful to your health. People didn’t believe in insulin when it was developed. And it goes on and on for people who don’t want to believe what they hear.


You don’t live in reality do you?


John, I really have sympathy for you. Living in your world of paranoia, not understanding science, believing the universe is only 6,000 years-old.
I would point out there are many very simple to understand books that will help you through your paranoia and insecurity and allow you to reason through some of these issues.
Now, I’m certain the author of those articles you read are identified and credentialed authors. Of course, you probably don’t lend any credence to those who have spent lives learning, testing data, and being curious.
I hope you do not get sick. I hope you can watch for the UN troops, the black helicopters, and the chip in your body forced on you. By the way, ditch your cell phone, newer vehicle, and put netting over your home. They are watching…………………………………..

David Edwards

Geez. How hard is it to understand the need to be vaccinated and to wear a mask.


If the vaccine works, why the mask?

If masks work, why the vaccine?

Remember when everyone said masks work great and touted Japan as the shining example because their culture always wore them prior? And then the Olympics suffered greatly even though all of Japan masked up? Shouldn’t those masks have stopped the China Flu?

JD in NC

Well to put it in a racing context: If a round of wedge will improve the handling of your car then why add tape to the grill, and if tape to the grill will improve the handling, why add a round of wedge? Because even though both work, they work better together.

As for Japan, they reported 15,782 new Covid cases yesterday, and the US reported 155,576. So we have 2.6 times as many people, but 10 times as many new Covid cases, and a higher percentage of their population live in close proximity in cities. So compared to us, they are doing much better fighting Covid.


Don’t bother with logic, Jake, to the “screw your freedom” crowd.


How hard is it to understand that masks don’t work and most of the new cases! cases! cases! are of people who’ve been vaccinated?

David Edwards

Like to hear where you came up with that one. Seems contradictory to everything that is being reported, even by the patients themselves.

Rufus T Firefly

If masks work, how come former President Obama wasn’t wearing one at his birthday bash? One of many incidents by leftwingers. Rules for thee but not for me. Maybe someday a writer will realize the states with the highest death rates are New Jersey and New York and these so-called vaccines are causing the delta variant in highly vaccinated countries like Ireland and Israel. What you have is suppression of opposing viewpoints to the mainstream narrative McFaddin spews out. When in history have those who try to suppress free speech and the exchange of ideas turned out to be the good guys?
Worried about the unvaccinated? Then you should be demanding Biden stop allowing illegal aliens in.


most hospital er’s are over whelmed. and icu beds are very limited. i’d be concerned about trauma care if needed from a major incident at daytona, but i would imagine medivac type responses pull priority.

people are going to do what they want. i’m just over it all. i do what is best for me and my health.

i know a 2 day music concert here in atlanta in september is now requiring proof of vaccination or negative covid test prior to attending the outdoor festival.

David Edwards

While Virginia is in much better shape than some states im taking few chances. Thank he last thing I need is for my cancer treatments being interrupted because of exposure to someone who didn’t get vaccinated or won’t wear a mask and sneezes on me.
So I’m not taking any unnecessary chances.


Good for you, stay safe. I think anti vaxxers should be refused treatment at ICU’s. They want “freedumb” , so enjoy it at home.


I’ll agree to stay away from ICU if you agree to return every dime I’ve paid for local, state, and federal taxes, plus insurance premiums that bankroll it. BTW, how will you implement your litmus test? What of ‘do no harm’?


” do no harm” lol your talking to the wrong person pal.


Good for you, David. Taking care of your health is the most important thing. Wishing you well with your treatments.

David Edwards

Thank you.


Agent Orange has weakened my lung capacity over the years. I try to stay as safe as I can be. If I have to be around people indoors, I wear a mask and keep my distance as best I can. I’m amazed at the stupidity of some who disregard science, but listen to and follow so called leaders who they themselves have been vaccinated.


thank you for your service Echo.


Which science? Fauci & Gates or Mallone, Mercola, et al?

I got sick from poo ponds in multiple deployments & face similar issues. That said I refuse to live in fear.


Not fear, just common sense. What do you fear from the vaccine !


A bit humorous that an unknown sports writer feels he deserves to know the private medical history of individuals who do not know he exists.

Do you suggest they add a gold star to the their fire suits?


Good article Daniel McFadin.

Jeez people. We can (or could) stopped this virus with a little teamwork.

It just takes one lineman not blocking or a running back not hitting the hole to mess up a play for 11 players. One pit crew member deciding to not go over the wall?

On team America the play call is get vaccinated, mask when appropriate, social distance when possible. If you don’t execute you are messing it up for the whole team.

Its not about mask vs vaccine or ‘you can’t make me, I have rights’. Its about us all working together to make life as save as possible. Your rights end at the end of your nose or perhaps at your front door. Beyond that your on my team.

If your not into the team thing then find a country where the population is not working together for the common good. Stay out of our hospitals when your rights don’t turn out like your lame brain thought.

Freedom is nothing left to lose – Janis Joplin

Bill B

We shouldn’t worry about saving people from themselves. There is a solution to the issue available to all. If people don’t want to get a vaccine then we should let the disease run it’s course and Darwinism prevail. I’ve got mine, get yours or take your chances. Don’t expect me to do something to keep you from getting it. I’m not even going to cover my mouth when I cough… too much? … OK forget that last sentence.


lol. I agree with the first part. As for your last sentence lolololol. Perverse, how about this. I smile when I read about these preachers dying after ranting from the pulpit for months about the evils of the vaccine. Reap what you sow should be on their tombstones.

Bill B

Yep there is nothing like poetic justice. There are no shortage of people in the ICU that are crying that they should have gotten the vaccine and are sorry they didn’t. I see it on the news every night.


Bill B, love your post. Like you, I have been vaccinated. However I continue to be cautious around people I don’t know or in large groups. That’s just my own personal feeling. I know other people feel differently.

I was always big on washing my hands and keeping away from people if they seemed to be sick – I did that during every flu season before Covid was even on the scene.

I was enjoying that short period of freedom from masks.

Bill B

My comment was purposefully harsh for the humor. Like you I have begun wearing a mask again when I go into buildings for my own protection (I refuse to wear one outside on general principles). I am also disappointed that the no mask needed period was so brief. However it really does irk me that there are so many unwilling to do what they need to do for the benefit of the larger society. I also find it sad that so many are willing to listen to self proclaimed experts on the internet that are just spouting out crap to get hits on their websites and feed the conspiracy crowd.

David Edwards

OMG. When did we collectively lose our minds? Despite all the noise I’m expecting a deluge of lawsuits from grieving families claiming that their beloved wouldn’t have died if the government had enacted stricter restrictions.

Bill B

nevermind,,,, the comment to which I was replying has been removed.

Last edited 2 years ago by Bill B

I’m guessing that was my comment. Dissenting opinion is not allowed in 1984…err…2021. Comrades, enjoy the ‘freedom’ given to you by your overlords & their willing enablers.


If I wanted a CNN article I would have looked at CNN.


Just one more little leftist whiner about Florida and its governor. Now you know why most real people are turned off by this BS by the bleeding heart liberals. Thought this was a sports article, but guess not. Now we all know why the MSM are hated losers. Pathetic.


After reading these comments, I have never seen such stupid sheep in my life. Get down on your knees for the great liberal disaster that is coming. Wow, I would have never guessed that the sheep are that scared but they keep believing the MSM and dementia joe and our god, Tony Fauci….. who hasn’t been right yet.


Motorsports drivers live on the edge of death, it’s just what they love to do. Granted, they do live healthier live than they used to, unless your name is Clint Bowyer, lol. Most of these drivers are fitness freaks now,.. keeps them at the top of their game.
“The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel.”

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