Official: NASCAR planning to return on May 17 with the first of 7 races in 11 days

Get ready for a lot of NASCAR racing on your television in the second half of May.

The sanctioning body made its plans for a mid-May return official on Thursday with a Cup Series race scheduled at Darlington Raceway on May 17. That’ll be the first of seven races over a period of 11 days across NASCAR’s three national series. They will all be held without fans in attendance as the series attempts to safely resume during the coronavirus pandemic.

As was reported Tuesday by multiple outlets, the 400-mile race at Darlington on Sunday, May 17, will be the first of back-to-back races at the track. The Cup Series will run again there on Wednesday, May 20. A day before that second Cup race, the Xfinity Series will resume its season with a race at Darlington.

The three races at Darlington will be followed by four races at Charlotte. The Cup Series’ Coca-Cola 600 is on May 24. The Xfinity Series will run on Monday, May 25, and the Truck Series will follow on Tuesday. The stretch of racing will then conclude with the Cup Series racing at Charlotte for the second-straight time and for the fourth time in 11 days on May 27.

Those seven races were the only races announced by NASCAR on Wednesday. Previous reports have said the sanctioning body has a tentative Cup Series schedule lined up through mid-June. The most recent NASCAR race happened on March 8 at Phoenix.

“NASCAR and its teams are eager and excited to return to racing, and have great respect for the responsibility that comes with a return to competition,” NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said in a statement. “NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, officials and all those in the local community. We thank local, state and federal officials and medical experts, as well as everyone in the industry, for the unprecedented support in our return to racing, and we look forward to joining our passionate fans in watching cars return to the track.”

NASCAR’s potential return to racing was boosted Tuesday by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper saying he believed that the 600 could be run as scheduled without fans. Assuming NASCAR’s plan will be executed, the 600 will be the only one of the three major traditional Memorial Day weekend races to be run as scheduled. The Indianapolis 500 has been moved to August and the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix has been canceled.

Darlington and Charlotte are the sites for NASCAR’s return because of their proximity to the home bases for teams in greater Charlotte as they can easily get to and from each track without the need for extended stays. Tentative schedules made public through mid-June include races at Bristol, Martinsville, Atlanta and Homestead, a track that’s an 11-hour drive away from Charlotte.

One-day shows

All seven races will be one-day affairs, meaning there will be no practice in the days ahead of them. Only the Coca-Cola 600 will have qualifying. The starting lineup for the other races will be presumably determined via the points standings as stated in the NASCAR rule book, though NASCAR didn’t explicitly say that in its announcement.

NASCAR said that crew members will be required to use “protective equipment” and that health screenings will be conducted on everyone who enters the track. Social distancing is also required, though that remains to be seen how it will be done as teams work on cars during pit stops. There is no mention of the phrase “pit stop” in the article on NASCAR’s website announcing the change.

NASCAR has said numerous times that it intends to hold all 36 Cup Series races in 2020, so expect some more midweek racing throughout the year for NASCAR to hit that goal. But safely getting back to racing is the first priority. On Wednesday, the day before NASCAR announced its potential return, the state of North Carolina saw its biggest one-day increase in confirmed cases as more than 550 people tested positive for the virus.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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