The days of seeing every driver and team member wearing a mask while outside at NASCAR races are over.
NASCAR said Thursday that masks and face coverings are no longer required for drivers and teams (and others working at the track) while they are outdoors. The mask requirement had been in place ever since NASCAR resumed racing in May of 2020 following a two-month break because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Face coverings are still required when team members are inside their haulers or buildings on track property. But drivers will no longer need to wear a face covering while standing on pit road next to their car and crew chiefs won't have to wear a mask while sitting on top of the pit box during races.
The move to drop the mask requirement comes as the CDC has said that the risk of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 is extremely low.
"Going forward, our focus is on encouraging everyone to get vaccinated and preventing indoor spread of COVID-19," a NASCAR email said Thursday morning.
You'll notice the use of the word "encouraging" and not "requiring" in that NASCAR email. NASCAR has been requiring proof of vaccination for guests and media members to access the garage and pit road at upcoming events. Those who do not work in NASCAR for the sanctioning body or a team must show that they are vaccinated if they want to have levels of access that were available pre-pandemic.
That requirement does not extend to team members. Drivers and crew members are not required to be vaccinated. NASCAR president Steve Phelps previously said that requiring vaccination for drivers and crews would be a "slippery slope."
Yet the sanctioning body has no problem going down that "slippery slope" for other groups of people. Simply put, if it's a slippery slope for one group of people it's a slippery slope for all groups of people.
NASCAR is also in a unique position to require vaccinations for all competitors. Unlike other major sports where players have a union and their terms of participation are collectively bargained, there is no driver or crew union in NASCAR. Whatever NASCAR says goes. NASCAR could easily and legally add a provision requiring vaccination for all participants without the need for any collective bargaining and set a vaccination standard for other sports leagues.
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