Michael Jordan, 49ers' Kyle Shanahan attend Sonoma Raceway's 1st NASCAR event in 2 years

ByCornell W. Barnard KGO logo
Monday, June 7, 2021
Michael Jordan, Kyle Shanahan attend NASCAR race in Sonoma
Being the first NASCAR appearance here in 714, it felt like a celebration, complete with celebrity sightings.

SONOMA, Calif. (KGO) -- NASCAR has returned to the Bay Area for the first time in almost two years, and thousands of fans were more than ready to get out and hear those engines roar again.

The 2021 Toyota Savemart 350 is likely another positive sign of California's reopening.

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For NASCAR fans, it was like old times.

Sonoma Raceway was revving back to life after a long hibernation, to host the highly anticipated event.

"We are thrilled to have our fans back at Sonoma Raceway, 714 days since NASCAR last raced here in the Sonoma Valley," said Sonoma Raceway spokesperson Jen Imbimbo.

"This is our first NASCAR race," said Richard Summerlin from El Sobrante.

Summerlin and his young son RJ are excited to be doing something fun together.

VIDEO: 'This is stupid': Driver frustrated by Sonoma Raceway mask regulations

Sonoma Raceway has a "zero-tolerance policy" for wearing face masks, but some drivers contest this is unsafe due to the carbon dioxide they breathe while racing.

"We go to monster truck shows and A's games. We couldn't wait to get back out so we jumped at the chance," he added.

"Last year it wasn't happening it was sad, so it's nice to see it back again," said Crystal Clay from Las Vegas.

COVID-19 protocols are in place, masks and social distancing required.

At 33-percent capacity, it's was a sold out crowd at the raceway. Normally the grandstands can seat 47,000.

There was plenty of star power in the crowd.

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NBA superstar Michael Jordan was spotted off the track - he's now at NASCAR team co-owner.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, served as race grand marshal - he says the experience gives him hope.

"Actually being at a sport with fans is the best feeling, I don't want to go through another year with cardboard cut outs, they can only do so much," Shanahan said.

No cardboard here, just real fans.

For many, it was a raceway homecoming.

"We love it, we'll be back," said Mary Heitghter from Lake Tahoe.

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