INDIANAPOLIS — For the last seven weeks now, COVID-19 has single handily robbed the United States of our “old normal.” We’re nearing 50 long days that have gone by and nothing is the way that it was in early March. That’s not only affected our bodies in terms of our health, but our livelihoods have also been affected just as much. The delicate balance is a difficult one.
In turn, the economy on not just the local level, has taken a massive hit. That’s why as the cases have taken a drastic drop and the weather finally warming up, people are getting desperate and stir crazy. We weren’t founded as a country to stay at home and not work. We need something to do but this novelvirus has kept us inside.
So, a lot of states have plans in place to reopen again but to do so with health in mind as well. While that reopening is going to look a lot different than it did before we went under our stay-at-home orders, it’s still going to allow us to start to somewhat find a new normal. In the midst of this in the process of a “new normal vs. old normal” is NASCAR. They’re going to play a big role in economies getting back going again and getting us back to a normal life gain.
Why NASCAR you may ask? Well, there’s over 800,000 reasons to why NASCAR is an integral piece to this puzzle. Those 800,000,000 are in terms of dollar bills.
See, NASCAR has an $8.2 billion TV deal in place which is slated to go through the 2023 season. That equates out to a little over $800 million available in TV money for this season. In turn, a large chunk of that $800 million goes to race tracks for hosting NASCAR races. Because of that, it keeps race tracks in the black as well as the local and state governments that the race track resides in too. Also, teams get an estimated 25-percent of that $800 million too. That helps pay their bills. The $800 million is the start and the funnel under it saves a lot of jobs and helps boost local economies.
Get it now?
That’s why even without fans in the stands, getting NASCAR started is key to everyone involved. Everyone makes money without fans being there in the middle of a pandemic.
With that being said, the situation still remains fluid. Where we race is going to be largely dictated by state governments now that as of last Thursday, North Carolina has deemed NASCAR as an essential business.
Race shops can open again and are doing so now. That means that they can race. But, where can they go?
We do know that a NASCAR return is imminent. Ryan Newman has been medically cleared to return to his No. 6 Ford. Matt Kenseth was named the replacement for Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chevrolet. Both drivers were given playoff waivers on Tuesday. Last Thursday, NASCAR was deemed essential and shops are able to open. Rides filled, shops opened and states saying come on by.
NASCAR is coming back sooner rather than later and the Carolina’s are leading the charge on this. South Carolina has already said that the Darlington Raceway can hold a second date and the newest revision of the daily schedule changes have a race on May 17 on the Lady in Black. There’s also one plan that has them racing again in Darlington on a weeknight on May 20. Then, the Cup show would move to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. Three races in seven days.
From there, NASCAR would race again at Charlotte on May 27 and go up to Martinsville (VA) Speedway for a May 31 date. That’s five races in a span of 14 days.
“We believe unless health conditions go down that we can have the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend in Charlotte,” said North Carolina governor Roy Cooper on Tuesday.
The reason for these tracks to start thing off is simple — their proximity to the shops in the greater Charlotte area. Darlington is a couple of hours away. Same for Martinsville. Charlotte is a home game.
We can get going ASAP without much travel. These races would be one-day shows with no practice and no live pit stops. That would limit personnel for each team at the tracks to around 10.
For June, Texas, Atlanta and Homestead are on the docket which that would get us through the middle of the month. Daytona is in play for a third date now too.
That would get us close to July before we can sit back and reevaluate how things stand from there and make adjustments to travel, personnel and procedures at the track and away from it.
Right now though, all signs are pointing to a NASCAR return on May 17. Will it definitely be Darlington? I’m not ready to say that yet. A revised version says yes but that version has been revised in what seems like every five minutes. Don’t put much stock in the tracks for the dates yet, just put stock in the dates themselves because the tracks which are a short drive away can be readjusted as needed.
We will run as close to 36 races as we can and not go past that marker. With extra dates added to Darlington and Charlotte, that means we lose some tracks too. Sonoma in June would be tough and could be on a chopping block. Would NASCAR go up to the northeast (Watkins Glen, New Hampshire and Pocono)?
This could be a south and Midwest regionalized sport for a large chunk of the summer but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. These tracks can accommodate one day shows and allow 36 races to be run which in turn releases hundreds of millions of dollars.