CONCORD, N.C. -- This is the first weekend for vaccine distribution at the Speedway. It is part of a partnership with Atrium Health to distribute one million vaccines by July.
Officials with Atrium say they are expecting to vaccinate more than 16,000 people over the course of the weekend.
Since the start of the pandemic, the Speedway has also been home to several COVID-19-safe activities, including testing, drive-thru high school graduations, drive-in concerts, and the Speedway Christmas Lights.
According to officials, the event was running ahead of schedule. By 2:30 p.m. Friday, they had already vaccinated 63% of the people who had set up appointments.
Atrium Health made history today by starting to vaccinate 16,000+ in the largest mass vaccine event in North Carolina. At Friday’s event at @CLTMotorSpdwy, thousands of community members drove onto the famous race track to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. pic.twitter.com/lwlZlMwTXy— Atrium Health (@AtriumHealth) January 23, 2021
65-year-old Kent Gonnerman, who received his vaccine Friday, said the process was fast and smooth. He signed up as soon as he was able.
“For me, I think the bulk of our population is going to have to do this. If we're going to push this pandemic back and push it back quickly to return to normal life,” Gonnerman said.
Thomas and Joyce Isom also received the first dose of the vaccine Friday. They also report it being a smooth process and fun experience at the same time.
“I felt like we were going on the merry-go-round riding around the race track. I'd never been in there before. It was an experience. It was a good experience,” Joyce said.
They also did it for their health.
“I’m very excited because they have preexisting conditions and I think we're protected now more,” Thomas said.
Joyce also wanted to do it so they could see their loved ones and honor them. Last year, Joyce’s brother, Maurice Boyd, died of COVID-19. Her mom, Barbara Smith, beat COVID-19 and later died from heart failure.
Michael Gibson, the facilities manager at the Speedway, says it made sense to make the switch from testing to vaccinations because of the large amount of space.
"It should be a nice place to host it. We're large, we can maintain a good, even, steady flow. So we're proud really more than anything to be able to do that for the state," Gibson said.
The mass vaccination events are part of a private-public partnership among Honeywell, Atrium Health, Tepper Sports & Entertainment, and Charlotte Motor Speedway. State and local governments are working with these organizations to make this initiative possible.
Appointments for this weekend are full and Atrium says they will send out notifications when more become available.
Next week, the mass vaccination event will be at Bank of America Stadium. Organizers hope to vaccinate up to 30,000 people.