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Racing fans can finally begin tuning up their engines. And that’s because NASCAR announced Thursday that they have gotten the green light to return to action in the upcoming weeks.

Although the races themselves will look like their typical self, minus the fans, the schedules and routines revolving around the races will not. NASCAR has had to craft new rules and regulations with the intent of creating a safe environment from the COVID-19 virus.

Fresh regulations in place, NASCAR will kick off with the Monster Cup Series, the sport’s premier circuit, beginning on May 17th. It will be the first of seven events that will be held within an 11-day period which will involve all three NASCAR national series. Four of those races will be held at Charlotte Motor Speedway, while the other three will be held at Darlington, NASCAR’s oldest superspeedway.

The jam-packed two-week schedule will be the first action since NASCAR suspended its season March 16th. And this time around, it will not include any racing fans. In fact, the Darlington events will also be run without qualifying or practice.

However, that won’t be the case for the Monster Cup Series at Charlotte. NASCAR officials are hopeful to include qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway depending on what they learn from the Darlington events.

Either way, NASCAR now joins UFC, which returns May 9, as the first major sporting organizations to announces specific return-to-play plans since the global COVID-19 pandemic shut down all sports in mid-March.

With that being said, it’s only fair to question will other sport organizations follow suit in the incoming weeks.

Needless to say, nobody really knows when other sports will be able to resume action, but the hope is they will … at least eventually.

Right now, the NBA is currently looking at Disney World as a possible destination to finish out its season. Meanwhile, the MLB has become increasingly optimistic over the past few weeks that there will be baseball this season. And although the noise hasn’t been as loud from leagues like the NHL and MLS, there are still hopes there at play will eventually resume.

Everyone’s hope is that NASCAR’s events can run smoothly. If it can, then perhaps NASCAR can be used as a blueprint for other sports organizations like the NBA and NHL, who were also in the middle of their seasons.

All in all, it’s a positive sign that we are slowly being able to incorporate sports into our lives again. NASCAR being able to re-open its doors have given sports fans hope that all sports will be able resume to normalcy soon enough.

New procedures

  • Only licensed NASCAR team members will be allowed into the racetrack. They will be required to wear cloth face masks. Anyone who does not will be removed from the facility.
  • Teams’ work areas in the garage will be spread out to comply with social distancing guidelines.
  • Spotters, normally working shoulder-to-shoulder atop the press box/tower, will be spread out to comply with social distancing guidelines.
  • Competitor motor homes will be allowed in the racetrack infield, but instead of occupying one enclosed area, they will be spread out throughout the infield.
  • Teams will be limited to 16 total members, including the driver.
  • All events will include live pit stops. O’Donnell said that live pit stops were a high priority during the formulation of the return plans, in order to make the race experience look and feel as normal as possible.
  • Over-the-wall pit crew members will use face screens or neck socks in addition to their normal gear of firesuits, helmets and gloves.
  • NASCAR has asked race teams to closely monitor the health of their employees before, during and following each event.
  • There will be random temperature checks of everyone working in the garage area. Anyone determined to be symptomatic will be checked via an outside care center. If they are determined to be a potential virus threat, they will be required to leave and be replaced with another crew member. This includes drivers.
  • NASCAR is asking everyone inside a race facility to keep a contact tracing log, manually at first and then by implementing digital inputs. If a worker shows symptoms, that person and those he was in contact with will need to self-isolate.
  • Media coverage outside of the TV and radio broadcast partners is still being determined.

Cody is a sports journalist who's been with the Daily Journal since 2020. He's been a sports reporter since his days at the University of Iowa where he graduated in 2019.