Are you ready for a spring race or two at Darlington?
Per multiple reports, NASCAR has sent teams a tentative schedule outlining the Cup Series’ return to action in less than three weeks. The schedule, according to both The Athletic and Autoweek, includes a 400-mile race on Sunday, May 17, at Darlington. A second race at the famed track would then happen on May 20 ahead of the Coca-Cola 600 as scheduled on May 24.
NASCAR has been reportedly aiming for a mid-May start for some time. The All-Star Race was previously scheduled for May 16 and can easily be moved or simply canceled to make room for a points race. Darlington would be the spot to restart the season because South Carolina officials have expressed their willingness to host a NASCAR race in the immediate future and because it’s within driving distance of Charlotte, where most teams and drivers are based.
Here’s how the rest of the schedule through mid-June would play out without fans in attendance. From The Athletic:
The second Darlington race (310 miles) is on the schedule for Wednesday, May 20. NASCAR’s plan is to continue at Charlotte — its traditional Coca-Cola 600 — on May 24 and again on Wednesday, May 27, with a 300-mile race.
The remainder of the schedule shared with teams continues at Martinsville Speedway (May 31), Bristol Motor Speedway (June 3), Atlanta Motor Speedway (June 7) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (June 14).
Midweek races at Darlington and Charlotte would conceivably take the place of other races on the schedule, though it’s not clear which races those would be. A revised schedule through June 14 would see NASCAR make up races at Martinsville, Bristol, Atlanta and Homestead that were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic and replace originally scheduled races at Kansas, Michigan and Sonoma.
Kansas would have the ability to host a possible midweek race in the evening because it has lights. Michigan could host a doubleheader race weekend with its regularly scheduled August race. Sonoma would require a weekend for a makeup date because of the travel distance and because the road course can’t host a night race.
Notably absent from the tentative schedule is Texas Motor Speedway. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has previously teased the possibility of a rescheduled race at Texas, a track that had its spring race postponed. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he believed the 600 could be run as scheduled on May 24. Charlotte Motor Speedway released a statement following Cooper’s comments and said it would have more details to share when NASCAR officially releases its revised schedule.
NASCAR has been steadfast in its desire to run a full 36-race Cup Series schedule because of the TV contract it has with Fox and NBC. And Fox, which has the first part of the season, would likely be more than happy to broadcast some midweek races. If — if — NASCAR returns in May before other sports and sporting associations do, it’ll likely see increased viewership as people across the country are still socially distancing.
Safe races, however, are much more important. And it’s certain that NASCAR will institute myriad different procedures and processes over the course of its impending race weekends in an attempt to prevent any potential spread of the virus.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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