While NASCAR is again requiring masks in all indoor spaces — regardless of vaccination status — starting this weekend at Watkins Glen, IndyCar will maintain its currently policy when the two series share Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Aug. 13-15. IndyCar, citing its more than 90% vaccination rate in the paddock, is requiring face coverings only for those who are unvaccinated. Both series will be using IMS’s expansive infield garage facility.
“IndyCar recommends members of the paddock wear face coverings in indoor spaces with elevated risk and continues to require unvaccinated individuals to wear masks indoors,” IndyCar said in a statement to IndyStar. “In lower risk situations – outdoor spaces or indoor spaces where distancing, ventilation and high vaccination rate can be accounted for – there is no mask requirement for vaccinated individuals.”
NASCAR altered its policy due to the increased spread of COVID-19’s delta variant and the CDC’s latest guidance recommending fully-vaccinated people wear masks indoors. Anyone in haulers, the infield care center, suites, race control, media centers, restrooms and other buildings will be required to use a face covering until further notice. Masks will not be required when outdoors, but NASCAR discourages close, sustained contact in large groups.
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One important distinction is that the series vary widely in their vaccination push. IndyCar said more than 90% of the paddock had been vaccinated days before its season-opener in mid-April, whereas NASCAR is said to be below the national average of 50%, though that rises to 70% in terms of adults with at least one shot.
In comparison, the WNBA led the charge in terms of domestic sports leagues, announcing in June that 99% of its players were fully vaccinated. The NBA and NFL follow at 90%, and in late-June, the MLB said it had eclipsed the 85% mark for its tier 1 and 2 personnel. IndyCar believes it can continue to push forward without a change in protocol because its vaccine rate throughout the paddock is so high.
Additionally, drivers and members of both paddocks will be free to intermingle next weekend at IMS — something that wasn’t allowed a year ago when fans weren’t permitted and NASCAR was running strictly one-day shows. The series will be set up in separate garage areas and won’t share many common spaces at the same time, according to IndyCar and IMS.
This statement from IMS explains how the track will alter its current masking guidelines (which are optional for those vaccinated and required for those unvaccinated like the previous CDC guidelines):
“Per NASCAR’s protocols, several indoor spaces – including race control and the Media Center – will require masks for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. IndyCar will continue to implement its own requirements and guidelines for parts of the competition footprint that it fully controls. IMS will encourage customers to wear masks when fully indoors but there will not be a mask mandate for customers.”
As that last sentence states, these rules will largely not affect the 60,000 or so fans expected to be at the track Saturday and Sunday for the three races. Because the two sanctioning bodies largely don’t share suites, only those inside NASCAR-specific suites will be required to wear masks while indoors. Parts of IMS suites offer outdoor seating, too.