When he was forced to shutter his NHRA racing teams amid the COVID-19 breakout, the first thing legendary drag racer John Force thought about was the ticket-buying public.
“The fans are what kept me motivated and made me never, ever think anything would come to an end,” the 16-time Funny Car champion said about his decision to regroup and focus on coming back strong in 2021.
He’ll be pleased to know that around 3,000 drag racing fans will be allowed into The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to view this weekend’s Dodge NHRA Finals.
LVMS and the UNLV football team, which hosts rival UNR Saturday night at Allegiant Stadium, will become the first major Southern Nevada sports entities to welcome spectators back in accord with the 10-percent capacity limit set forth by Gov. Steve Sisolak. LVMS on Thursday gave media a preview of its safety protocols.
“Hopefully this can be a good example for all the other facilities in town — we obviously hope UNLV has success Saturday night with their football game,” LVMS vice president of public relations Jeff Motley said during a safety walk-through that included Clark County Commission chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick and two families of Las Vegas race fans who purchased tickets for the championship weekend.
NHRA pro class qualifying will begin Saturday at noon, beating UNLV’s kickoff by 7½ hours.
Plan comes together
Motley said LVMS had a similar plan in place for last month’s NASCAR playoff race before the restriction on spectators was lifted. Much of those preparations were implemented for the NHRA weekend, he said.
“We’re also very happy that we’re able to put some people back to work,” Motley said. “People that are taking your temperature, that are checking your bags, that are scanning your tickets, the ones that are selling you souvenirs and concessions … our security, parkers and ushers — those people are part-time employees.
“To be able to put some people back to work with our unemployment level what it is in Clark County, we’re pretty excited about that.”
Longtime NHRA fan Eric Roberts said he was thrilled to purchase tickets for The Strip’s re-opening before they quickly sold out.
“We really didn’t anticipate the racing to come back this year,” said Roberts, who was wearing a crew shirt autographed by eight-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher.
Roberts, who was accompanied by his wife, Vanessa, and sons Ben and Cody, said he felt comfortable after seeing the LVMS health measures firsthand.
“At least we know they have covered the social distancing here and the safety precautions, so we can go back to our home and not worry about it,” he said.
Dodge Finals schedule
— Pro Stock qualifying, noon, 3:15 p.m.
— Top Fuel, Funny Car qualifying, 1 p.m., 4:15 p.m.
— Top Fuel, Funny Car eliminations, 10 a.m., 12:40 p.m., 2:40, 3:45 p.m.
— Pro Stock eliminations, 11 a.m., 1:10 p.m., 2:35 p.m., 3:40 p.m.
For full weekend schedule, including sportsman classes: https://www.lvms.com/tickets/nhra/dodge-nhra-nationals/schedule/