The 2021 Daytona 500 will feel much different than in years past. The bleachers at Daytona International Speedway won’t be filled to the top this February in light of the coronavirus pandemic, but NASCAR is adding a country music-themed twist to this year’s race to retain the tradition of the fan-favorite event.
The 2021 Daytona 500 will be held in front of limited fans
The 2021 Daytona 500 is less than a month away, and NASCAR fans are eagerly gearing up for the iconic season opener. Daytona International Speedway will wave the green flag for the 2021 season on Sunday, Feb. 14, but this won’t be your typical Daytona 500.
Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, NASCAR will host this year’s Daytona 500 with limited fans in attendance. The speedway, which can hold upwards of 100,000 spectators, will only be about 20% filled on Feb. 14.
Denny Hamlin returns to Daytona this year seeking his third straight victory at the season-opening race.
NASCAR is adding a country music twist to the 2021 Daytona 500
Although the typical number of fans won’t be allowed to watch the Daytona 500 in person this year, NASCAR is still committed to keeping the integrity of the family-friendly event intact. On Tuesday, NASCAR announced country music star Luke Combs will perform a pre-race concert at Daytona International Speedway this year.
“I can’t wait to feel that energy again. Man, I miss it,” Combs told The Associated Press via email. “It’s the first live show I’ve played since March of 2020, and I’d say it’s pretty dang huge.
“If you would’ve told me back then that I’d be performing at the Daytona 500 one day, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Combs continued.
Chip Wile, the track president at Daytona International Speedway, believes Combs is the perfect choice to keep the NASCAR tradition alive.
“The tradition of the Daytona 500 pre-race show has been an incredibly popular hit with race fans,” Wile said in a statement. “Luke has been one of the most influential country music stars over the last few years and his fan appeal is incredible. It’s a bonus, too, that he loves our sport.”
Luke Combs is ecstatic to perform live again
Luke Combs, who is one of the biggest country music stars in the world today, hasn’t performed live since the pandemic hit last March. Combs might be a tad rusty when he gets back on stage next month, but he can’t wait for the opportunity.
“It’s the thing that allows the fan to be connected to the artist in a very intimate way, something that you can’t really explain. Live music is a way for us to be able to disconnect from everything else, and just be there in the moment,” Combs told AP. “The pandemic has definitely hurt our industry as a whole, but I personally just really miss being on stage every night with the guys and the fans.
“It’s why I do what I do. When I said ‘I miss the road, I miss my band’ in my song ‘Six Feet Apart,’ I really meant it. It’s hard being away from (the fans) and I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Combs’ performance will air live on FOX at 1 p.m. ET before the Daytona 500 on Feb. 14.