GOP senators ask governor to allow racing at Charlotte

Gov. Roy Cooper has given NASCAR the green flag to run the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend. (Mike McCarn / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — Five Republican state senators are asking Gov. Roy Cooper to allow NASCAR races — without fans — next month at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

In a normal year, NASCAR would run the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte track over Memorial Day weekend.

Like other, sports, though, NASCAR’s schedule has been upended by the coronavirus. NASCAR said Friday it hopes to resume racing at some point in May without fans in the stands.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he hopes NASCAR can race next month at one of the state’s tracks, again without fans.

On Sunday, senators Kathy Harrington, Paul Newton, Todd Johnson, Vickie Sawyer and Carl Ford said allowing a race at Charlotte would require the governor to amend his executive order.

Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said Sunday that “Governor Cooper knows the importance of NASCAR to our state and he’s already been talking with track and team owners about how we could potentially restart racing. It’s too soon to predict specific decisions about future sporting events but any plan would prioritize public health and safety and preventing spread of the virus.”

Sens. Kathy Harrington (R-Gaston), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus), Todd Johnson (R-Union), Vickie Sawyer (R-Iredell), and Carl Ford (R-Rowan) want Gov. Cooper to partially reopen Charlotte Motor Speedway in time for the Memorial Day race.

Sen. Harrington said, “Other states have already adopted this policy, and Gov. Cooper should allow North Carolina to follow suit.”

Sen. Johnson said, “People are going stir-crazy with very few live sports underway, and allowing NASCAR racing in Charlotte would be a good first step toward returning to some semblance of normalcy. Gov. Cooper should permit fan-less racing.”

Sen. Sawyer added, “We should be looking at every safe example of a way to partially reopen society, and fan-less NASCAR racing seems like a simple step that Gov. Cooper can take right now.”

To permit fan-less racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Gov. Cooper would have to amend his executive orders regarding mass gatherings and essential activities. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.