NASCAR to Return Sunday

Published: May. 16, 2020 at 4:25 PM EDT
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UFC has been running modified events since the start. If you were willing to stay up all hours of the night you could catch live baseball from South Korea. And Saturday morning Germany's Bundesliga became the first major soccer league in the world to return to action. But on Sunday, rev up your's time to go racing in the United States.

"Just the fact that we'll be live racing again after a few months of obviously hiatus, I think it's really exciting for race fans around the world," said David McGrath, Executive Vice President and General Manager at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

The first NASCAR Cup Series race since March 8th is set to run at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina on Sunday. Now obviously it will be anything but business as usual, and NASCAR is going to great lengths to try and keep everyone safe.

"Basically what NASCAR is doing is limiting who can be at the track," said Nick Mumley of Vermont-based racing show The Inside Groove. "We're gonna see probably 30 to 40 people for each team there when things are going as usual. That number has been limited down to 16."

"They'll be tested at the event, they'll be tested when they return," McGrath said. "I mean there's a lot of responsibility that NASCAR has to get this right, and I applaud them for putting together a very comprehensive plan."

In case there was any question, no, there won't be fans in the stands, which will make for an odd environment. But it's necessary according to Mumley.

"We're talking 100,000 people plus throughout the weekend," Mumley said. "So I'm not sure what it's gonna look like with no fans and reduced teams but it's obvious that NASCAR couldn't continue with what they were doing in the past."

There has been some shuffling of the schedule as NASCAR tries to work its way back to some semblance of normalcy. The first four races out of the gate will take place over the next 10 days at Darlington and Charlotte, two tracks only about an hour apart in the region most teams have their garages. But even though they're leaning on their nearby tracks for now, McGrath fully expects NASCAR to make its annual New England stop in July.

"There hasn't been any changes given to me as of yet. Right now we're moving forward as our July 19th event."

It remains to be seen whether the situation will allow for fans to return to NASCAR races at any point this season, but McGrath is hopeful.

"Doing the right thing and being responsible and making sure that everyone is safe is key right," McGrath said. "Our North star, our guiding light is to make sure we work for the fans. So yeah it would be a big disappointment not to have fans, but right now that's not the case, and we're planning to put on the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 with fans in the grandstands."

There's a lot at stake for the rest of the sports world to see if NASCAR can successfully and safely return to action. But aside from just the other sports with big TV contracts, fans of local racing are hopeful this can have a trickle down effect.

"Hopefully this whole thing happening for NASCAR creates a positive situation for the local tracks and local governments to maybe allow racing in Vermont, New York, and New Hampshire to maybe come back a little bit sooner if this whole thing goes well with Nascar," Mumley said.

But regardless, it will be great to have some live sports on TV again and theoretically being first will allow NASCAR to gain interest they wouldn't otherwise have.

"Having something for people to watch that's live, I think you're gonna find some really new fans that are gonna just latch on and go, 'Wow! I hadn't tried that before, hadn't really sat down and watched it,'" McGrath said.

If you fit into that category, the opening race at Darlington is scheduled for 3:30 on Sunday afternoon.

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