NASCAR Announces Return to Racing May 17 at Darlington
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All three of NASCAR’s top national touring series will return to action in May, without fans in the grandstands, the sanctioning body announced on Thursday.
After a two-month hiatus, NASCAR Cup Series will resume racing on Sunday, May 17 at Darlington Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX), with another Cup event scheduled at the challenging 1.366-mile track on Wednesday, May 20 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
Cup events will follow on Sunday, May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the original date for the Coca-Cola 600, and on Wednesday, May 27.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will resume competition on Tuesday, May 19 at Darlington, with a second race on Monday, May 25 at Charlotte. The Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series is scheduled to return to action on Tuesday, May 26.
Additional schedule information and revisions will be available later.
“NASCAR and its teams are eager and excited to return to racing, and have great respect for the responsibility that comes with a return to competition,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president, and chief racing development officer. “NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, officials, and all those in the local community.
“We thank local, state and federal officials and medical experts, as well as everyone in the industry, for the unprecedented support in our return to racing, and we look forward to joining our passionate fans in watching cars return to the track.”
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) began its spread throughout the United States, NASCAR suspended its on-track racing activities on March 13, four races into the 2020 season. The sanctioning body remains committed to completing a full slate of 36 points races in its foremost division.
In its return to racing, the sanctioning body is mandating the following protocols:
- One-day shows for each series.
- Mandated use of personal protective equipment throughout the event.
- Health screenings for all individuals prior to entering the facility, while inside the facility and exiting the facility.
- Social distancing protocols throughout the event.
- Strict limits on the number of individuals who are granted access to each facility.
Needless to say, racing without fans in attendance will be a novel experience for drivers.
“I feel like it’s going to be really weird visually not having any fans there, but aside from that… I mean, I’m pretty shy, I keep to myself, kind of just want to do my own thing,” said Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.
“When it comes time to go into work and drive the race car, I think it’ll be business as usual for me. The situation might be different with practice or schedules or whatever that may be, but other than that, really just be business as usual—just because I just kind of do my own thing.”
Bowman, however, doesn’t think the quality of the racing will suffer, even with modifications to the at-track schedules and the reduction of events in each series to one-day shows.
“I feel like with social distancing stuff in place and all that, we can still do the jobs that we’ve done and still be entertaining,” said Bowman, who won at Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) in the third of four races before the coronavirus pandemic brought the NASCAR Cup season to a halt. “I would just assume less cameras and interviews and stuff like that, so some of that stuff might be cut down or have to be in a different format, but we’re all still the same people that we are.
“Clint Bowyer is still going to be hilarious; Kyle is still going to have people mad at him—Kyle Busch, that is. The personalities are still going to be there. It’s going to be the same in that sense. I think when it comes to our sport, the on-the-track product is the most important thing, and I really think we can put on great shows and do that safely, and I think that’ll be really good for everybody.”