NASCAR Is Starting Next Weekend, What About Other Racing Series?

INDIANAPOLIS — We’re a little over a week away from NASCAR resuming their 2020 season back up again. Last Thursday, NASCAR revealed their plans to resume their campaign which will start back up on Sunday, May 17 at the Darlington Raceway. They will be the first major sport to resume live activity since earlier this spring, as their race next Sunday would mark 70 days between races.

What about everyone else? We’ve got other major racing series around this world including the NTT IndyCar Series, IMSA, Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series and Formula One. When can they get going again?

For them, it’s not so easy.

First off, nothing has changed today in comparison from March, in terms of medical prevention from contacting the coronavirus. The world has been gripped with fear since early March and while COVID-19 cases have taken a drop in a lot of countries, the only thing for certain that we can rely on for causing the spread to fall is the stay-at-home orders or bans on mass gatherings. That’s the best way to mitigate the chance of this novel virus from spreading at the speeds that it started to.

Now, with several countries’ economies being crippled from this virus, folks are growing impatient. Economies are starting to open back up again, albeit in phases, but the some places are starting to try this out.

The problem is, the virus hasn’t necessarily gone anywhere. It’s still out there. People are still being infected by it. There’s still a lot of people dying from the coronavirus too. There’s no guarantee that opening economies back up again is going to keep the numbers going down. It could cause a spike in cases. That’s why, even with coming out of our homes again, it’s not going to be like it was at the end of this past winter.

So, what does that do to racing?

NASCAR is back because of their TV deal. They’re still in the midst of an $8.2 billion TV package which nets them over $800 million per season if they can run all 36 races. The sport, the teams and the tracks all make a ton of money just for racing. They don’t need any fans to be in attendance in order to make money.

The other racing series’ around the world don’t have that luxury.

NTT IndyCar Series (June 6 Opener)

The NTT IndyCar Series announced on Thursday that they have worked out a deal with the Texas Motor Speedway to keep the June 6 race unaffected. What will change though, is that no fans are allowed through the gates of the facility, to go along with new safety measures that are now in place. Also, this will now be a one-day show with practice, qualifying and the race all in the same day. In wake of that, the the race will go from a 600k event to 300 miles, which shortens the distance 48 laps from 248 to 200.

This would have been possible without both sides giving up revenue in some areas. We know the state of Texas said that sports could resume in the Lone Star State but would have to do so without fans for the foreseeable future. With NASCAR not willing to go much outside of the North Carolina radius for a while, Texas was off limits for them in early June. If they could have paired up with IndyCar, then it would have been a win-win for all where no one had to give up much in the monetary department. That though wasn’t a realistic option this soon.

So, Texas gave up some money while IndyCar likely laxed their sanctioning fee as well. See, with no fans in the stands, Texas wasn’t going to make any money and have to spend upwards of 6-7 figures as a result with no gain in the meantime.

Also, IndyCar unveiled on Thursday that the schedule released on April 6 remains the same. While that’s all fine and well, realistically, some changes may still have to occur. Road America is the second race up on June 21, but I still don’t see any way the race can be held in Wisconsin a little over a month from now with fans in attendance. We know both sides are working on making the race itself work, which will all come down to a discounted sanctioning fee as well.

From there, it’s supposed to be to Richmond (June 27) but on Monday, the state of Virginia released their new phases to get back out of this and on it, there’s no way any sporting events could take place in the Commonwealth until at the very soonest July 13. So, unless they can make the June 27 date work with no fans and very minimal people in terms of the traveling circus, that race will get moved.

Right now, the first race that could take place with fans in the stands would be the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 4. According to Indiana’s new plan unveiled last Friday, if all goes well, sporting events are able to hold fans in the crowd starting on the Fourth of July with social distancing measures in place. That crowd is nothing like the Indy 500, so expect this to happen.

We know the first eight races have been moved with five of them canceled all together. We know Texas and Indy look good for June 6 and July 4, what about everything else? As of now, they’re on target, but it’s still very fluid.

IMSA (June 28 Start Date)

So far, IMSA has had to reschedule some races. The next available race is June 28 at Watkins Glen. Can that race run without fans? Watkins Glen is in New York, the state with the highest coronavirus cases and highest coronavirus deaths. I don’t see how they can host a race with fans next month.

If they can’t, then IMSA’s resumption falls back to July.

Austria
F1’s new season open could be in July at Austria – albeit without race fans

Formula 1 (July 5 Start Date)

The first 10 races to the season has been either postponed or canceled. Seven have chances to get back on the schedule later this year while three (Monaco, Australia and France) won’t be back until 2021.

Chase Carey said that he’d like to host 17-18 races now this year with the start being on July 5 in Austria. Between then and mid-December, there’s 23-24 weekends to get 17-18 races scheduled between 19 venues.

Here’s what we know.

F1 will start in Europe. That will take place in July-August. There’s eight races that fall under that category with one of which being unlikely. Azerbaijan is a street course and will be hard to reschedule. Three of the five IndyCar races that are canceled for 2020 are on street courses. Two of the three in F1 that are canceled are street venues too.

So, that means seven races left for Europe, but I don’t see any having fans in attendance at them. Austria, England, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Hungary and Belgium would be eligible to host races. Belgium has a ban on mass gatherings through Aug. 31. Hungary’s ban is through Aug. 15. That means neither can host a race with fans. Spain and Italy were two of the hardest hit countries in the world. Austria and England have already said that no fans will be in attendance at their races. That means the Dutch Grand Prix would be the only race with a potential for fans, but knowing what we do now, why would they be the lone ones?

So, that moves the first race available for fans to attend an F1 race would be September at the very earliest, but still, that would be tough. That’s the point the season moves to Asia which have five races there. Russia, still has rising cases, Japan postponed the Olympics until next year, China is where this virus originated, Singapore is a street race and Vietnam are the eligible races to be scheduled in Asia. What about those situations makes you think that they can race with fans by the Fall?

I can see Singapore joining the canceled race with China likely following. That leaves three Asia races in September with it being tough to see any of them hosting fans.

Then, it’s to this hemisphere in October. Canada is a partial street race and has a ban of mass gatherings into the fall. It’s going to be pretty chilly that time of year in Montreal, so they could too join a list of canceled races this year. The United States could host a race with fans in October, but would the US want fans from all over the globe to come to Texas with a potential for further spread? That race has a sanctioning fee of around $25 million. If no fans can attend, or even a fraction of fans, COTA would have a hard time hosting that race. Mexico and Brazil are the two most likely countries to host F1 this Fall over on this side of the world.

They then would finish in December in the Middle East.

As you can see, F1 can get going this season, but hosting fans will be as tough as ever.

NHRA (August Start Date)

They unveiled that their original restart date of June 7 in Florida is no more. The NHRA said that the soonest they now will begin is August. Their TV deal like IndyCar’s where it would be difficult to host a race without fans and make any money. That’s why their ambitious proclamation to NBC Sports last week that they will start in June and have fans there was a bit premature. They need the fans to come through the gates, hence waiting to August now.

So, as you can see, NASCAR could be the only racing series in the world going until July.

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