May 15, 2020 - Sports

NASCAR is back after a 10-week coronavirus hiatus

Data: NASCAR; Table: Axios Visuals
Data: NASCAR; Table: Axios Visuals

After a 10-week hiatus, NASCAR returns to the racetrack Sunday at South Carolina's Darlington Raceway.

Why it matters: Other sports leagues will be watching closely and hoping that the weekend goes smoothly, as that would give them confidence — and a road map to follow — as they, too, attempt to return in the coming months.

The backdrop: Given the lack of physical contact between competitors, it's no surprise that auto racing is one of the first sports back in action, but the path that NASCAR traveled to get here was "anything but precise, a constantly redrawn road map that ... remains written in pencil," writes ESPN's Ryan McGee.

"Can Goodyear provide tires? Can we get fuel? It's incredibly complicated. We're on version 65, maybe version 70, of the plan. We do have pivot plans. Frankly, there's been days of the week where things have changed by the hour."
— John Bobo, NASCAR VP of racing operations, via ESPN

The new rules:

  • No fans allowed, and there will be fewer than 900 credentialed personnel (media members, track workers, etc). A normal race weekend can have as many as 3,700.
  • Team rosters will be limited to 16 people, including the driver. Big teams normally have three times that many people.
  • Upon entering the track, crew members will be subject to health screenings (think: airport security check, but with thermometers). Anyone showing symptoms will be sent to the on-site medical center for "heavy screening."
  • Once inside the track, crew members will be subject to random light screenings, and thermal cameras will monitor their temperatures.
  • Cloth face masks are required, and anyone who doesn't wear one will be removed from the facility and face heavy fines.
  • Everyone must keep a contact tracing log. If someone shows symptoms, that person and those he or she was in contact with must self-isolate.

Looking ahead: Darlington will host a second race on Wednesday, and then NASCAR will head to Charlotte Motor Speedway for two more races on May 24 and May 27. Then comes the following slate, which was announced last night:

  • May 31: Bristol
  • June 7: Atlanta
  • June 10: Martinsville
  • June 14: Homestead-Miami
  • June 21: Talladega

Go deeper: Coronavirus projected to cancel half of 2020's live sporting events

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