NASCAR will become the first major series to stage a race amid the coronavirus pandemic after lockdown measures came into effect with seven races at two race tracks.
The stock car racing series has announced a revised schedule for May. The first race at Darlington on May 17 would be the first in the Cup Series since March 8 at Phoenix.
As part of the altered schedule and its return to the track, NASCAR intends to stage several races during the month with no fans in attendance.
Two Cup Series races are planned for Darlington Raceway, with the first coming on May 17 and the second coming three days later under floodlights. An Xfinity Series race will also come mid-week between the two Cup races.
NASCAR will then move on to Charlotte, host of the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend. Following the main race at Charlotte on the 24th, a second will be staged three days later on the 27th, with Xfinity and Truck Series races leading up to the second date.
NASCAR says it has worked closely with local health officials and medical experts to structure a race format that will adhere to guidelines set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Each of the races will be held over one day with no practice or qualifying for any race aside from the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, which will have just a single qualifying session ahead of the race.
Travel will be kept to a minimum from teams’ North Carolina race shops and protective equipment will be mandated, as the series will also administer temperature and symptom checks throughout each event.
“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,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president said.
“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.”
Currently, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina stand at around 10,500 while South Carolina hovers around 6,000. Cases in both states have steadily trended upward since mid-March.