For the past five weeks, NASCAR has been racing virtually on iRacing. The top drivers of the sport were racing each other online and that has been a big success while we have been in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But even though iRacing is a nice alternative, it’s not a replacement for the real thing and NASCAR is set to start again with live racing.
On Thursday, NASCAR announced a revised schedule for the month of May to go back racing but without fans in the stands. Focusing on locations within a short drive of Charlotte, North Carolina, where most teams are headquartered, the NASCAR Cup Series will start May 17 at Darlington Raceway, a two-hour drive from Charlotte. For the Cup Series, they will race four times in 11 days in the month of May, twice in Darlington and twice in Charlotte, and will only have qualifying for the Coca-Cola 600 in order to limit the amount of time teams would need to be at the track. The Xfinity Series will race once at Darlington and Charlotte and the Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series will race at Charlotte.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) April 30, 2020
For better or worse, NASCAR is set to be the guinea pig on whether or not it’s safe for the sports world to start again. While NASCAR is different in that 40 teams will be converging into one track instead of two teams inside an arena or stadium, other leagues will be monitoring NASCAR’s handling of the situation.
NASCAR has noted that they have taken preparations to practice social distancing as much as possible while at the track. One thing is that the motorcoach lot at Darlington will be converted to a makeshift garage so teams can spread out in the garage area. That’ll be a big worry, that a few hundred people will be confined to the garage area and pit road that the more spread out everyone is, the more that’ll help the situation. In addition, races will be a one-day event with no practice or qualifying (except for the Coca-Cola 600). Essentially, teams show up at Darlington on Sunday, take the car out of the hauler, race, put the car back in the hauler, everyone goes home for a couple days, come back Wednesday, take the second car out of the hauler, race, and then everyone goes home to repeat the same thing at Charlotte.
Right now, the NASCAR Cup Series has had four out of 36 races and need to make up races meant to take place in Atlanta, Homestead, Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega, Dover, and Martinsville. An additional race at Darlington and Charlotte will cover three of those postponed races and surely more races will be added and taken away in the future.