- Associated Press - Thursday, May 14, 2020

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR’s season started with the Secret Service doing a security check on the firesuit-clad pole-sitter for the Daytona 500 and thousands of fans waiting hours in line to pass through a metal detector.

When the season resumes on Sunday some 13 weeks later, drivers will have their temperatures taken as they enter Darlington Raceway in South Carolina and they will be wearing masks as they leave their isolated motorhomes and make their way to their cars. There will be no fans allowed inside.

Faced with many of its teams falling into financial ruin, NASCAR is waving the green flag on a plan it believes allows the series to safely return to racing. Only essential personnel will be permitted into the infield with strict guidelines on social distancing, access and protective clothing.

There will be no one to boo reigning series champion Kyle Busch, no pre-race concert, no pomp and probably no flyover.

The first seven races in May are at Darlington and Charlotte Motor Speedway, tracks within driving distance from teams’ North Carolina bases. Four are in the elite Cup Series and the other three are lower-tier Xfinity and Truck Series races.



NASCAR hasn’t raced since March 8 so Wednesday night events at Darlington and Charlotte are the only way to cram in some of the missed events.

These races will be nothing close to the weekly traveling circus NASCAR typically stages and participants will be figuring out a new normal when they pull up to the gate at Darlington.

NASCAR had hoped to announce a revamped 2021 schedule in April that included midweek races, more short tracks and road courses, and other efforts to shake things up. Those plans have been delayed as completing the 2020 jigsaw puzzle is now the priority; NASCAR said last week it won’t race this year as scheduled at Chicagoland Speedway or on the road course in Sonoma, California. The spring race in Richmond, Virginia, also will not be rescheduled.

Jeff Gordon and Fox Sports broadcast partner Mike Joy will call the race from a studio in Charlotte and Regan Smith will be the only at-track reporter for the broadcast team, working the pits.

With NASCAR being the first major sports league with a nationally televised event, Gordon recognizes the responsibility he and Joy have to set the right tone. Gordon was a driver in NASCAR’s first race back after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. won in Dover, Delaware, and set an iconic image for the nation by waving the American flag out his window during his celebration.

“These are unique and challenging times and I hope that people that tune in are tuning in because they recognize the importance that sports play in our every day life,” Gordon said. “I think it can show hope. I think there’s going to be a lot of eyeballs on this event to see how it’s going to play out and how it’s going to be able to continue after this, and what that means for our country as people are trying to figure out how they are going to get back to work or normalcy or school and what life is going to look like over the next year. If a sporting event like this can happen, then, what’s the next step?”

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