It doesn’t seem that long ago when I was in Daytona for Speedweeks all that everyone wanted to talk about was what the schedule was going to look like for the 2021 season and what the new race car that was to be introduced beginning in that season would do for the sport.
That line of thought has long since left the sport as NASCAR because of the impact of COVID-19 has already pushed back the introduction on the new car until the 2022 season and we are now more concerned about what the remainder of this season is going to look like than the 2021 season.
The NASCAR Cup Series held its fourth and final race before suspending all racing on March 8 at Phoenix.
The Martinsville race that was scheduled for next weekend will be the eighth postponed race on the 36-race schedule since Phoenix.
NASCAR has recently released an updated version of the schedule that will restart the sport and give the sanctioning body time to make changes to the remaining portion of the schedule in order to run the number of races originally scheduled plus keep the playoff portion of it intact. Darlington Raceway will host the first race on May 17 at 3:30 with a 400 mile/293 lap event followed by another Cup race on Wednesday May 20 at 7:30 that will be made up of 500 kilometers/228 laps.
Sandwiched in between these two races will be a Tuesday May 19 at 8:00 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
The only Cup race that was scheduled for Darlington this season was its annual Labor Day weekend Southern 500. The two races that been added to the track to restart the season will not replace the Southern 500. This will be the first time ever that the track has hosted three Cup races so if you are a big fan of the track and there are plenty of you out there, this is definitely good news.
The series moves to Charlotte Motor Speedway the following Sunday for its scheduled Coca-Cola 600 with a 6:00 green flag that starts the race in daylight only to end under the lights.
The new schedule now has the series returning to the track for a second race on Wednesday May 27 at 8:00 for a 500 kilometer/208 lap event. Monday May 25 the Xfinity Series will race at 7:30 and the following night on Tuesday May 26 at 8:00 the Truck Series will restart its season.
All of the races at both Darlington and Charlotte will be one day events with no practice or qualifying with the only exception being the Coca-Cola 600 that will hold qualifying but it will be on the day of the race. Teams will only have to prepare one car as there will be no need of a backup car for any of the races. Charlotte had two races on the original schedule so it will be picking up only one additional race this season as its second races doesn’t come until the playoff portion of the schedule.
The added three races scheduled between Darlington and Charlotte means that there will be three originally scheduled races that will be cancelled this season. NASCAR has not released what tracks might lose a race but Sonoma may be one of them as California has been hard hit by the virus and may be slower to reopen than other states.
Some tracks may be forced to hold double header weekends like Pocono which was already scheduled for one this summer in order to make room for make-up dates.
PIT NOTES: NASCAR will only allow 16 people per team and that includes the driver and owner at the track for each race. No practice and qualifying makes this number feasible and it will also permit live pit stops to take place which will go a long way into making the race day experience as normal as possible even without fans in the stands.
Steve Mickey writes about NASCAR for HD Media.