NASCAR Sets Official May Schedule, Darlington And Charlotte 1st Up Following What Would Be 70 Day Hiatus

INDIANAPOLIS — Gentlemen, start your engines. NASCAR’s return to action is now imminent and will be here in two weeks. We’ve heard rumors about a potential restart of the 2020 season, but NASCAR wasn’t going to confirm anything until a concrete plan was in place. Now we know.

“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.”

NASCAR will return to action on Sunday, May 17 at the Darlington Raceway. It will be the first of seven races for the sport in a span of 11 days. Darlington will also mark the first race since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States and crippled us with fear beginning this past March. The month hosted the last race at the Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, March 8. Just three days later, the sporting world was turned upside down.

NBA player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday, March 11 and everything that we knew as “normal” then, well it was thrown out the window. The NBA swifty postponed their season. All of sporting leagues around the world would follow suit over the next 48 hours, including motorsports.

NASCAR was planning on racing that upcoming weekend at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, with new safety measures in place, but with everything else getting canceled, they didn’t want to be the ones risking the spread of this virus further. So, on Friday March 13, NASCAR said that they would not race in Atlanta. Then came a flurry of postponements that included the next seven races (Homestead, Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega, Dover and Martinsville). Throw in Atlanta and you have eight races needing made up.

But, with coronavirus cases starting to lower, the federal and local run governments were wanting to climb out of these stay-at-home orders. Not only was our health care system taking a large hit, so was our economy at almost every level. People were without jobs because our lives came to a complete stop basically since mid March. Nothing that we did on March 10 can be used now. It was time to come back out of our homes but we have to do so in a “new normal” for a while.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 26: William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty Patriotic Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola, driver of the #10 Smithfield Ford, lead the field to the green flag to start the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

NASCAR, is part of that “new normal” as they’re the pioneers of leading the charge of the sporting world getting back going. So, in two weeks, they’ll now return. If all goes to plan, this would have been a 70 day hiatus.

As we sit here today, more than 1-million COVID-19 cases are known here in the United States. There’s more than 3-million around the world. In terms of deaths, we’ve lost almost 62k here within our borders. There’s been over 228k around the globe lost to this pandemic.

Yes, those are large numbers, but the amount is slowing compared to the recent past. The reason for that is social distancing measures that have been put in place. It worked. So, you may be asking, how can NASCAR host a race in the midst of a pandemic with social distancing measures taking place? It’s simple — fans can’t attend.

When NASCAR starts back up in May, they’re doing so without fans in attendance. So, Darlington in two weeks and then to the Charlotte Motor Speedway after, will be run without anyone in the metal bleachers around those race tracks.

It’s a TV only event.

That’s possible because of the $8.2 billion TV contract NASCAR has with Fox Sports and NBC Sports that goes through the 2023 season. The sport will receive upwards of over $800 million alone this season if they can get 36 races in. With four already run and eight postponed, how do you get 32 more in before the end of the year?

Yes, there’s a chance this pandemic can spread further, even inside of the NASCAR garage. That’s why you’re seeing so many races run initially. They want to race at tracks near the greater Charlotte area because that’s the spot most of these teams are based in. Using tracks that are drive-able and not having to take planes, makes this safer. So does limiting other aspects like practice and qualifying. We can do one-day shows without the need for a large abundant amounts of team personnel on site.

Put all of that together and you get two races at Darlington (May 17, May 20) to kick things off, even a weeknight races, plus a couple more (May 24 and May 27) in Charlotte including the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, May 24.

“It’s an honor for Darlington Raceway to resume the 2020 NASCAR season in just a few short weeks with three races in four days,” said track president Kerry Tharp. “Darlington is one of the most iconic and historic tracks in the sport and will be a tremendous backdrop when NASCAR returns to racing. We certainly appreciate the support from our state’s leadership in working with NASCAR to allow us to host these events.”

The other sporting leagues around the world don’t have the luxury of the TV deal nor the safety measures that NASCAR can provide. Yes, MLB and NBA could return to action in controlled environments like Disney World (NBA) and Spring Training venues (MLB) but you’re asking professional athletes to not be humans and quarantine themselves in hotel rooms for the hours that they’re not playing games. Can you realistically ask people to stay away from their families for months?

NASCAR can race and still allow people near their families while also providing millions for themselves, the race tracks and local governments and do so without adding to the spread.

It’s a win-win for them and for everyone whether you’re involved or not.

New Schedule

May 17 – Cup at Darlington (400 miles) 3:30 p.m. ET FOX

May 19 – NXS at Darlington (200 miles) 8 p.m. ET FS1

May 20 – Cup at Darlington (500 km) 7:30 p.m. FS1

May 24 – Cup at Charlotte (600 miles) 6 p.m. ET FOX

May 25 – NXS at Charlotte (300 miles) 7:30 p.m. ET FS1

May 26 – Trucks at Charlotte (200 miles) 8 p.m. ET FS1

May 27 – Cup at Charlotte (500 km) 8 p.m. ET FS1

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