NASCAR fans will soon hear the words they’ve been longing for: Gentlemen, start your engines!
On May 17th, actual race cars will return to competition, as the NASCAR Cup Series resumes at Darlington Raceway. After a 400-mile race at the Track too Tough to Tame, scheduled for 3:30 p.m., the NASCAR Xfinity Series makes its comeback at the 1.366-miler on May 19th (8 p.m.). The Cup tour returns to Darlington for a 500k contest three days later (7:30 p.m.).
The Cup season has been on hold since March 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although spectators will not initially be allowed in the stands due to the dangers of the potential spread of COVID-19 during this trial run, the show will go on.
“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.”
Initially, a six-track/eight-race Cup schedule was expected to be announced. However, as the pandemic continues, the 2020 calendar remains fluid. Currently, seven races between Darlington and Charlotte Motor Speedway are on the lineup to be televised on FOX and FS1. Cup moves to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24 followed by Xfinity on May 25. The Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series’ is scheduled to return Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26. The current schedule concludes with a 500k
“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,” said Mark Silverman, President, National Networks, FOX Sports. “While we are thrilled to return to the race track, the health and safety of our employees and all race participants is our top priority.
“We will continue working in lockstep with our partners at NASCAR and the race tracks to follow all national and local health guidelines.”
For the short-term, race procedures and activity around the garage will adapt to the current recommendations from medical experts, CDC, OSHA, and state and local health officials. Each race will be a one-day show. Practice and qualifying for all events except for the Coca-Cola 600 will be eliminated. Only a limited number of essential personnel will be allowed at the race track. Personal protective equipment (PPE) and social distancing will be required throughout the events. All individuals entering and exiting the event will be medically screened.
“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. 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.
“In accordance with the CDC and public health agency standards and protocols, no fans will be admitted to these events; however, we encourage all fans to tune in to FOX, FS1, FOX Deportes, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.”
Erik Jones is the defending winner of the Darlington 500.