NASCAR may hit tracks without spectators

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NASCAR Martinsville Speedway Image: NASCAR

US stock car racing series NASCAR says it is hoping to return to the tracks in May sans spectators.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is an American auto racing sanctioning and operating company that is best known for stock-car racing.

The announcement comes in the wake of NASCAR having postponed the scheduled May 9 race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, US. It is believed the first race to hit the tracks back will be the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina, US, on May 24. The Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 will not be held on May 9 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

All scheduled activities at Martinsville over the weekend of May 8-9 were postponed.

NASCAR has put off eight races so far this season because of the global Covid-19 pandemic which has torn the world to shreds. The United States is presently the COVID-19 hotspot with the respiratory disease taking a heavy toll on lives. The series intends to run all 36 NASCAR Cup Series races this year, which is likely to involve doubleheaders and weeknight races this summer.

NASCAR said in a statement, “Our intention remains to run all 36 races with a potential return to racing without fans in attendance in May at a date and location to be determined. We will continue to consult with health experts and local, State and federal officials as we assess future scheduling options.”

NASCAR is looking to fill the sports competition void with its newly-developed esports series, the eNascar iRacing Pro Invitational Series.

But, after three weeks of virtual racing, the growing series has also proven a powerful means to lure more NASCAR audience, bringing the esports competition to hundreds of thousands of fans who had not watched any
real-world races this year.

Virginia is under a stay-at-home order into June. NASCAR suspended its season four events into the year when sports shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. It listed Martinsville as its first race to resume, but announced recently that it will not be able to stage the event.

Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell said in a statement, “We want to thank all of our dedicated fans who were set to join us during our May race weekend and our first NASCAR Cup Series race under the lights.”

“The well-being and safety of our patrons, NASCAR stakeholders, employees and our community continues to be our number one priority. We appreciate your patience and understanding during these challenging times and we look forward to having everyone back in the near future to help us make history once again at Martinsville Speedway,” Campbell further stated.

Before the shutdown prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, NASCAR had completed four races on its Cup Series schedule: The Daytona 500, won by Denny Hamlin; plus events at Las Vegas, won by Joey Logano; at Fontana, Calif., won by Alex Bowman; and at Phoenix, won by Logano.

Races have been postponed at Atlanta, Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega, Dover and now Martinsville. The next event on the NASCAR calendar is the All-Star race on May 16 at Charlotte.

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