NASCAR to officially return without fans, four May races in Charlotte including Coca-Cola 600

NASCAR to officially return without fans, four May races in Charlotte including Coca-Cola 600
NASCAR is officially returning and will hold several May races in Charlotte including the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend for the 60th consecutive season. (Source: David Whisenant-WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - NASCAR is officially returning and will hold several May races in Charlotte including the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend for the 61st running.

NASCAR has officially announced it will return to racing, without fans, on May 17, kicking off a slate of races, including seven events in three series at two race tracks – Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Each of NASCAR’s return events will be run without fans in attendance. Further schedule adjustments will be announced in the future.

The NASCAR Cup Series first returns to Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 17, with a 400-mile event scheduled for 3:30 p.m. This will be first on-track event since mid-March.

What follows is a unique schedule including midweek races in primetime and the Coca-Cola 600.

The opening slate of races is as follows:

  • Sun, May 17 - Darlington
  • Tue, May 19 - Darlington
  • Wed, May 20 - Darlington
  • Sun, May 24 - Charlotte
  • Mon, May 25 - Charlotte
  • Tue, May 26 - Charlotte
  • Wed, May 27 - Charlotte

Due to continued restrictions on public gatherings during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the race will take place without spectators in attendance. The May 16 NASCAR All-Star Race has been postponed to a yet-to-be determined date.

“I’d like to thank Gov. Cooper, NASCAR and all of our state and local government and health officials who have worked so hard with us to make this happen,” said Speedway Motorsports President and Chief Executive Officer Marcus Smith. “This has been a proactive effort to put our motorsports industry back to work and boost the morale of sports fans around the world, while at the same time keeping the health and safety of all who will be on site the top priority.

“As one of the first races back on television, the Coca-Cola 600 will be part of America’s broadcast coming-out party for live, major-league sports competition. Sports fans around the world need this - a return to some sense of normalcy with live sports on TV - and NASCAR is uniquely positioned to deliver it from a competition standpoint," Smith added. “Like our fans, we are disappointed that they cannot join us at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the race, but we understand these are unprecedented circumstances dictated by what’s best for the health and safety of the general public.”

Following thorough collaboration with public health officials, medical experts and state and federal officials, NASCAR has implemented a comprehensive health and safety plan.

In accordance with CDC, OSHA and state and local government recommendations, nearly every aspect of how the event is conducted will be significantly modified, including:

  • One-day shows;
  • Mandated use of personal protective equipment throughout the event;
  • Health screenings for all individuals prior to entering the facility, while inside the facility and exiting the facility;
  • Social distancing protocols throughout the event;
  • Strict limits on the number of individuals who are granted access into each facility

As NASCAR works towards the execution of these events, officials say the sanctioning body will continue to work with state and local authorities based on trends and local restrictions.

In-race competition procedures remain largely unchanged, though NASCAR will eliminate practice for all events during this opening return slate, as well as qualifying for all events except the Coca-Cola 600.

Coca-Cola 600 and NASCAR All-Star Race weekend ticket holders on file may choose to receive an event credit for the full amount paid plus an additional 20 percent, or choose to receive a full refund of their purchase price.

The event credit can be applied toward any admissions, including, but not limited to, grandstand seating, infield tickets, camping, fan hospitality and pit passes. The 120-percent event credit can be used during the remaining 2020 or 2021 seasons for a NASCAR sanctioned event at any Speedway Motorsports owned track, subject to availability.

“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,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “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.”

Michael Kirkman and Karleen Marginean, two local NASCAR fans, spent part of their Thursday afternoon walking around the perimeter of Charlotte Motor Speedway. Both said they were excited to hear that racing would soon resume.

“Walking past, driving past this track day after day, to finally hear the engines roar up here is gonna be super-hype," said Marginean in an interview with WBTV.

Both fans agreed that they will miss seeing spectators in the stands during the races, but are excited to have professional racing in some capacity.

“It’s gonna be a bummer, but I’m just glad to have them back. I’m looking forward to being able to turn on the TV, watch them, and it enjoy it again," said Kirkman.

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