UPDATE: NASCAR has not made a formal announcement of its plans for the May 7-9 weekend at Darlington Raceway, but it provided information to FOX Sports about what it expects at Darlington:

— Each team, each manufacturer and the track will get a handful of guests. Those guests must be fully vaccinated. Prior to COVID-19, it wasn’t rare for a team to be able to entertain a sponsor executive and some family members of that executive, but now it most likely will be limited to the sponsor executive only.

— The guests will have access to the garage and pit road, but there will be no hauler tours, no meetings with drivers (drivers stay in the driver/owner motorhome lot) and no access to the “hot” side of pit road, meaning no photos of the guests by the cars or with the drivers prior to the race, as was the custom before the pandemic. If their car wins, the guests will be allowed on the pit box and will be allowed to go into victory lane for a socially distanced photo with the team.

— Each team will be responsible for confirming that its guest has been fully vaccinated. NASCAR might ask for a vaccination card at screening but will not store any health data.

— NASCAR is not requiring drivers and crew members to be vaccinated but is highly encouraging them to do so. NASCAR asks about vaccination on its screening form each week, and it estimates that the NASCAR industry mostly mirrors the national averages for vaccination but might be a little lower because on average crew members and drivers are relatively young and only recently became eligible.

See much more at Fox Sports.

ORIGINAL POST 4-10-2021: After weeks of pressure from teams and sponsors, NASCAR is working on opening its infield back up to VIPs and guests, starting next month at Darlington, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Ever since the sport returned to racing during the pandemic last May, the garage and pit-road areas of tracks have been sealed off from not only sponsor guests but even full-time, business-side executives across the sport, save for a handful of the sanctioning body‘s most senior leaders.

As the policy spilled into the 2021 season, that approach has become problematic for teams. The sponsorships they sell include key hospitality assets such as garage and hauler tours, plus the ability to be on pit road until just before the race starts and rub shoulders with the sport‘s luminaries. Sponsor guests and team owners have only been allowed in grandstand suites at typically reduced capacities since late last season.

Now, sources say that NASCAR informed teams in recent weeks that it will start a pilot program at Darlington, where it will allow a limited number of fully vaccinated guests to get into the infield — a major step toward a return to normalcy for the sport. The Darlington race weekend is May 7-9.

It was unclear exactly how many people will be allowed at Darlington, but a source said the number is expected to be in the single digits per team. The pilot program will also apply to guests of the sanctioning body and track. According to a source, NASCAR‘s plan on ensuring the guests are properly vaccinated will rely on shared responsibility between the hosting party, such as a team, as well as vetting by the sanctioning body, which will require proof of vaccination.

See much more at Sports Business Journal.