NASCAR will be the first major sports league to return after the coronavirus crisis ended mass gatherings including all major sports leagues on March 12. NASCAR teams have not raced in ten weeks. NASCAR will return at Darlington, which is just a short drive from NASCAR’s home garages to minimize travel time.
On Sunday afternoon, NASCAR will run a 400 mile Cup series race at Darlington. There will be no fans in the stands, the infield will be empty of all but essential personnel. All drivers and team members will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
To reduce the amount of time teams have to spend at the track, the Cup Series is not doing practices and will not have qualifying. Instead positions 1 through 12 will be determined by a random draw among charter teams in those positions based on team owner points earned through the first four races that were held before the season was suspended in March. The same process will be used for positions 13 to 24 and 25 to 36. The final four spots will be filled with non-chartered teams based on points, with no draw.
NASCAR will follow this race, with a second race in Darlington on May 20. They will follow that with a May 27 race at Charlotte.
For the second Darlington race on May 20, positions 1 through 20 will be set by inverting the order of top 20 finishers from the first race and 21 to 40 similarly for the bottom 20 finishers. Additional teams that enter will be placed at the back of the field.
NASCAR is planning to hold a full 36 race schedule, though when they will return to their normal venues is uncertain at this time. The race this Sunday will be televised on Fox, who will have a much smaller media presence than in past races and the broadcast crew will be at their studio in Charlotte instead of at the track.
NASCAR is the first major sports league to reopen following the shutdown.
The NBA held a conference call on Wednesday to discuss a resumption of play for the remainder of the 2019/2020 season. If and when the NBA is able to resume, fans will likely not be in attendance and the players and coaches will be sequestered with their families at a neutral site, possibly in Orlando or Los Vegas.
Major League Baseball presented its players with a proposal for a reduced 80 game 2020 baseball season. Players are reportedly skeptical of the 50:5) revenue split with owners as that would mean substantial pay cuts for players in 2020.
NASCAR has run some truck series events on Wednesday nights and horse racing and mixed martial arts have both also run some events, though the Kentucky Derby was postponed until September.
The resumption in sports is part of the gradual reopening of the economy following the forced economic shutdown in early spring to fight the spread of the coronavirus. 85,197 Americans have died from COVID-19 since February 27.
(This report is based on original reporting by Fox Sports and NASCAR.)