NASCAR is set to become the first major motorsports series to resume racing despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A NASCAR Monster Cup Series race is scheduled for May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, NASCAR said in a press release Thursday.
The Darlington race, which will be held without fans in attendance, will be the first of seven over an 11-day period, at two different tracks, NASCAR said.
The May 17 race, a 400-miler, will be followed by two more races at Darlington. A 200-mile Xfinity Series race is scheduled for May 19, followed by a 500-kilometer (310-mile) Cup Series race on May 20.
NASCAR will then move to Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina for four races, starting with the traditional Coca-Cola 600 Cup Series race on May 24. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race is scheduled for the following day, giving NASCAR two races over Memorial Day Weekend. A 200-mile Gander Trucks Series race and a 310-mile Cup Series race are scheduled for May 26 and 27, respectively.
In addition to running races without fans in attendance, NASCAR said it will modify procedures in response to the ongoing pandemic.
All individuals entering the tracks will be screened, and will be required to wear protective equipment and practice social distancing, NASCAR said.
NASCAR at Darlington Raceway
Races will also be run with a one-day format, with no practice sessions and qualifying only for the Coca-Cola 600.
NASCAR noted that Darlington and Charlotte are both within driving distance of most teams' North Carolina race shops, minimizing the amount of time participants will spend away from home.
The series did not announce any other race dates, but officials have said they plan to run a full 36-race Cup Series schedule for 2020, including the 10-race postseason format that decides the championship. NASCAR specifically noted that the May races at Darlington will not replace the Southern 500, traditionally held at the South Carolina track over Labor Day Weekend.
NASCAR held four races before shutting down; the last was March 8 at Phoenix Raceway. Planned races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway, Dover International Speedway, and Martinsville Speedway were postponed. NASCAR hasn't officially canceled these races, and said "schedule updates" specific to these tracks will be released at a later date.
All major race series are on hold due to the pandemic, and the race-day debut of the next-generation NASCAR has been pushed back from 2021 to 2022. Formula One is targeting a July restart, while individual events such as the Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans have been pushed back from their traditional dates.