RACE DAY: NASCAR makes return on Sunday, leading American sports back into action
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there's been limited sports. In fact, there's hardly been any at all. But things are starting to get back into action.
The UFC has been holding modified events from the get-go, while you can watch live baseball from South Korea if you decide to stay up late. On Saturday morning, we had an addition to our action with Germany relaunching their premier soccer league, Bundesliga -- the first in the world to do so. Now, the United States is getting back into the mix with the relaunch of NASCAR taking place on Sunday.
"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," stated the Executive Vice President and General Manager at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, David McGrath.
The race will be taking place at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, and it will be the first NASCAR Cup Series race held since March 8. However, it won't be business as usual for NASCAR, with fans not being allowed to attend and capacity inside the track being limited.
"Basically what NASCAR is doing is limiting who can be at the track," said Nick Mumley of '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," said McGrath. "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."
No spectators in the stands is sure to create a weird environment for NASCAR and their fans watching television at home, but Mumley explains that he feels that it's necessary.
"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."
As they get back to normalcy, NASCAR has switched up their schedule. For the first four races in the post-coronavirus world, they will be held at Darlington and Charlotte over the next 10 days, two tracks that are placed just an hour apart and closest to most team's headquarters. However, despite NASCAR depending on those two tracks at the moment, McGrath expects NASCAR to race in New England 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," said McGrath.
NASCAR isn't sure when fans will be allowed to return to their races, but McGrath is optimistic that it will eventually get back to that this season.
"Doing the right thing and being responsible and making sure that everyone is safe is key right," said McGrath. "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."
The rest of the sports world, especially in the United States with leagues such as MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS, etc., will be paying attention to NASCAR to see how successful they'll be at safely returning back to action. But it's not just other leagues who will be paying attention, it will also be sports fans, especially fans of racing -- who hope that Sunday will cause 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," said Mumley.
NASCAR's return brings American fans a taste of live sports on TV, and will also be something for NASCAR to take advantage of with having increased interest -- interest they wouldn't normally have -- due to the rest of sports in the U.S. still being shutdown.
"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,'" said McGrath.
The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway is Sunday, May 17 at 3:30 PM ET. You can watch the race via national television on FOX.