NASCAR is ready to get its motor runnin’ again. The stock-car outfit said today that it will return to live racing on May 17, green-flagging a slate of seven events in three series at two tracks over 11 days.
NASCAR said it “is working closely with health experts and government officials to ensure best practices and has a plan in place to minimize any risks associated with the [coronavirus].”
The races will be staged Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, starting with a 400-mile showdown at Darlington that will air live at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox. NASCAR said there will be no practice sessions, and only the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte will have qualifying..
Here is the revised schedule:
The NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series each will host its first on-track event since mid-March.
“NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, officials and all those in the local community,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR EVP and Chief Racing Development Officer. “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.”
Said Mark Silverman, President of National Networks at Fox Sports: “We are excited to welcome back the Fox NASCAR season to our airwaves to provide a return to live sports, a move toward normalcy and a much-needed distraction during these unprecedented times.
The news comes a day after New York’s attorney general demanded rebates from pay-TV operators of hefty sports programming fees during the COVID-19 timeout.
Here is a list of FAQs from NASCAR about its return to live racing:
Is it safe for racing to resume?
NASCAR is working closely with health experts and government officials to ensure best practices and has a plan in place to minimize any risks associated with the virus.
Why is NASCAR racing without fans?
NASCAR prides itself in being a fan-friendly sport. Fans drive everything NASCAR does, and NASCAR looks forward to the day when it can welcome fans back to the track. The decision to race without fans for these races is focused on the long-term health of the fans and the sport.
Does the May 17 race at Darlington Raceway replace the Southern 500 on Labor Day Weekend? Does it replace another previously scheduled race?
The Southern 500 on Labor Day weekend does not change. NASCAR currently is working through future schedule scenarios and will provide updates as soon as they are available.
Will the slate of races announced Thursday all be one-day shows?
Yes. This was decided after thorough collaboration with public health officials, medical experts and state and federal officials.
Will there be practice and qualifying?
There will be no practice sessions for any of the events announced Thursday. Qualifying will only take place for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Will this COVID-19 schedule cause NASCAR to change the playoff format and the tracks involved in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs?
There are no changes to the playoff schedule at this time, but the situation remains fluid. There are also no changes to the playoff format or structure.
What are the plans for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series?
Schedule adjustments for all NASCAR series remain in progress and will be announced at a later date. The plan remains to run a full schedule for all NASCAR series.
How is NASCAR working to maintain social distancing?
There are several measures being implemented, among them:
— Keeping workspaces separated unless absolutely necessary, and if a group of people works closely, that group will have little to no interaction with other groups.
— Haulers and race cars will have an open space between them — 6 feet minimum — and those spaces must remain clear.
— For Darlington, the Cup garage and motorcoach lot in Turn 3 will be the new “garage.”
— Twenty haulers will be in the traditional Cup garage; balance of the field will be in the motorcoach lot.
— Inspection of vehicles to correspond with the order teams enter the garage; as soon as a team enters, it would unload the car and proceed to inspection.
How did NASCAR determine the number of team personnel allowed at the track?
NASCAR worked closely with teams to determine an at-track roster number that ensures the competition remains as strong as ever.
Are the races at Darlington and Charlotte scheduled for those specific tracks because they are within driving distance of Charlotte-area shops?
Yes, although there were several factors involved. Primarily, NASCAR worked with local governments who have determined it was safe to return to racing in their state. These two tracks are within driving distance, so no competitors have to fly and the time spent in these communities is minimized.
What if a driver develops symptoms before the race and can’t participate? Will a backup driver be allowed, and what are the championship implications of that?
We’ve worked with the race teams to update the rulebook provisions for medical waivers to account for potential missed races due to COVID-19 infection.