COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will go racing again this month after receiving another go-ahead from state health officials to host fans for a marquee motorsports event.
On Thursday, the track announced it received another exception from Gov. Mike DeWine to allow up to 6,000 spectators for a race weekend, this time Sept. 25-27 for the IMSA WeaterTech SportsCar Championship.
Just like with last weekend’s IndyCar doubleheader, government officials approved Mid-Ohio’s request for a variance to the state’s coronavirus sports order, which limits the number of spectators at a sporting event to 1,500 or 15 percent capacity, whichever is fewer.
“The leadership and support of Gov. Mike DeWine and his administrative team have been tremendous throughout the process to secure a variance for a limited number of fans to attend next weekend,” said Kevin Savoree, co-owner, president and COO of Green Savoree Racing Promotions, in a release Thursday.
Morrow County on Thursday lowered to Level 1 in the state’s public health advisory system and none of its neighboring counties are higher than Level 2.
The Sept. 11-13 IndyCar weekend that allowed a maximum of 6,000 fans per day was sold out, the track said. It was the largest gathering of people for an Ohio sporting event during the pandemic until Thursday night’s Cincinnati Bengals-Cleveland Browns game will match it.
The track asked for 9,600 fans in its variance request for IndyCar, but its request for IMSA is for the 6,000 fans ultimately allowed. NBC4 obtained via public records request Mid-Ohio’s full 66-page submission to the Ohio Department of Health:
Mid-Ohio’s IMSA weekend, which was rescheduled from May 1-3, will feature nine total races next Friday through Sunday. The headlining race, the 2-hour-40-minute Acura Sports Car Challenge, is set for a 2:05 p.m. green flag on Sunday.
Tickets and protocols
As with IndyCar weekend, currently purchased tickets and season passes will be honored and a “very limited” number of tickets remain for sale on the track’s website. No tickets will be sold at the gate.
Seating will be on the grass viewing areas around the track as grandstands are still roped off. The garage paddock will also be closed to the public.
Spectators will be required to maintain six feet social distance and wear face coverings at all times, indoors and outdoors. Fans will also enter through Gate 1 and have their temperatures checked upon entry. If someone’s temperature is over 100.4 degrees, everyone in that car will be turned away.
The track lays out its full COVID-19 protocols here.
What is IMSA?
IMSA, the International Motor Sports Association, is America’s highest level of sports car racing. Four classes of cars race together on road course circuits, simultaneously competing against their own class and the whole field. Races can range from about a couple hours long like at Mid-Ohio to the season-opening 24 Hours of Daytona.
While stock cars (like NASCAR) are specially-made vehicles that mimic the look of their street-legal counterparts, and formula cars (like IndyCar) are open-wheeled vehicles with no street equivalent, most IMSA sports cars closely resemble the cars one would expect on a luxury lot.
IMSA runs models including the Chevrolet Corvette, Porsche 911 and Lamborghini Huracan.
IMSA’s headlining WeatherTech SportsCar Championship field also features world-famous drivers who wowed fans in other series, including former Indianapolis 500 winners Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Pataskala-based Meyer Shank Racing, which IndyCar fans may know from its No. 60 Honda entry in that series, has found success in IMSA. Last year, the organization won the GTD class championship with its No. 86 Acura NSX GT3.
Matt McMurry and Mario Farnbacher will be driving for Meyer Shank at Mid-Ohio.