MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- The drive from Uptown Charlotte to Go Fas Racing's shop in Mooresville provides subtle reminders of the global pandemic that has become so omnipresent it hardly needs mentioning.
Masked pedestrians are scattered far and few between along empty sidewalks, parking lots of major businesses sit deserted and a giant digital sign that hangs over Interstate 85 reads "Stay Home."
But pull off the highway at Exit 52 and drive 15 miles north on a single-lane road past beat-up cars parked on overgrown grass lots and 18-wheelers on their delivery routes, and it's easy to become oblivious to the more than 12,800 cases of coronavirus that have spread across North Carolina. Life here is always so isolated.
Reality returns with civilization along a mile-long loop called Performance Road, a motorsports haven lined with race team garages and auto repair shops. One store advertises "Hot Rods, Muscle Cars and Classics." Its doors are closed and the lights are off, but a few hundred yards north over at Go Fas Racing's garage, the lights (and masks) are on.
"I would say the masks are the biggest thing," Go Fas crew member Chris Womack said. "You take breaks to clean your hands and make sure you're not 'round nobody."
"But other than that," Womack continued. "Work has not really changed for us."
Womack is a front-end mechanic for Go Fas, the NASCAR Cup team that fields the No. 32 Ford Mustang driven by Corey LaJoie. The 33-year-old mechanic talked about his job servicing the front parts of the car, such as the brakes, steering box and suspension, over the sounds of hammering in the depths of the shop and through his N95 mask, which is not normally worn for his work.
"We spray more," Womack said. "We make sure everything's cleaner than normal. We make sure that we're wearing gloves and changing them in and out so we're not wearing the same pair for an hour."
An aerosol can of Lysol sat on a table a few feet away to his right. On his left was a travel-sized bottle of hand sanitizer. Those items don't typically have such a prominent home in the shop, but now they can be found scattered on tables next to power drills and team notes. Their containers are dwarfed by the giant car bodies that take up most of the 9,000-square-foot space, but they're just as important.
"This is such a small team," said Go Fas crew chief Ryan Sparks, who directs a crew of eight members. "If one person got sick, it could hurt us pretty bad."