Questions and answers about NASCAR’s planned return to racing
After announcing that NASCAR plans to resume May 17 at Darlington Raceway and look at running Cup, Xfinity and Truck races there and at Charlotte Motor Speedway through May 27, NASCAR officials held a teleconference with reporters to answer questions.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, and John Bobo, NASCAR vice president of racing operations, met with reporters.
Here is what was said:
Q: Will fans be allowed at the races for May 17-27 at Darlington and Charlotte?
A: No. O’Donnell said: “We want to conduct events with fans any chance we can get. But until we believe that it’s a safe environment, and we can work with the local and state communities to make that happen, we’re going to wait until we get that okay.”
Q: NASCAR only announced races for May 17-27. What about afterward for Cup?
A: O’Donnell said the goal is to have the first seven races at tracks within driving distance of the race shops in the Charlotte, North Carolina region. With Darlington and Charlotte each hosting two races, that could allow NASCAR to run a race each at Bristol, Martinsville and Atlanta before venturing further out where teams would need to take a plane and stay in hotels instead of driving to an event and back home afterward.
Q: Will some tracks lose races?
A: Yes. O’Donnell said three Cup races likely will be realigned and “a few more” would take place in the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Series. He did not reveal the races but said an announcement is expected before the May 17 Darlington race what races will be moved. Darlington has stated that the Southern 500 remains scheduled for Sept. 6, so the two Darlington races in May would replace two Cup events.
Q: Will there be more doubleheaders in Cup?
A: Possibly. O’Donnell said that it was NASCAR’s intent that the Pocono doubleheader June 27-28 remains the first doubleheader but he suggested there could be one or two other doubleheaders. In a filing with the SEC on Thursday, Dover Motorsports stated that it is “possible that our May NASCAR Cup Series event will be moved to August and that we hold a double header with back to back NASCAR Cup Series events held on Saturday and Sunday.”
Q: Will the playoff races remain the same?
A: Yes at this time.
Q: Will there be practice and qualifying for any of the races scheduled in May?
A: There will be no practice for any of the events scheduled from May 17-27. Only the May 24 Coca-Cola 600 will have qualifying.
Q: Will there be live pit stops in these races scheduled in May?
A: Yes. O’Donnell said: “It was important for us to be able to showcase a race as close to what normally takes place as possible.”
Q: With no qualifying at Darlington, how will the starting lineup be set?
A: O’Donnell said NASCAR is not ready to announce that but did say a “good assumption” would be that the first race for each series would be set by car owner points. That would put Kevin Harvick on the pole at Darlington for the May 17 event. O’Donnell did say: “We realize that as you go through events (setting the lineup by car owner points) is not the best way to do things, so there is some discussion going on now with the race teams and the drivers about as you get to race two and three, are there some things you can do to mix it up a little bit around pit selection or possibly for race two, start that lineup based on how you finished in race one. More to come. We just went to flush out a few more things with the teams and make sure we’ve the fairest possible lineups.
Q: Will there be a Victory Lane?
A: Said O’Donnell: “We have thought about it. The drivers have asked us about this, too. Our goal is to certainly have a celebration on or around the start/finish line. In an ideal world we would like have to have Victory Lane. Not sure of all the logistics of how we pull that off. We certainly want to try and have a trophy, at least that celebration with the driver.”
Q: How many crew members will be allowed at Darlington for the Cup race?
A: 16. That will include driver, team owner, spotter, crew chief, pit crew and team members. Xfinity and Truck teams will have fewer team members.
Q: What will be the screening process?
A: NASCAR vice president of racing operations John Bobo said: “We’re asking teams and all of our participants, organizations, to self‑monitor people for five days for symptoms before they arrive. We’re asking them to fill out a questionnaire and initial screening for temperature. Concerns after that, they will go into secondary screening with medical personnel, which will include heart rate, pulse oxygenation. Medical personnel will make decisions at that point. … Temperatures will be taken randomly throughout the event of people as needed. Symptomatic patients will be processed and removed from the event and given medical attention if needed.”
Q: What if a driver fails the screening process?
A: They would be replaced. Said O’Donnell: “We hope we don’t have to do this, but we will allow a replacement person for a team member or for a driver. The parameters will be set up in place with the screening prior to the race, especially for Darlington.
Q: What if a driver does not pass the health screening and is replaced. Will the driver who was to have started get points?
A: No. O’Donnell said the current rule remains at this point — the driver in the car at the start of the race gets the points. O’Donnell noted that the rule could be amended, depending on the circumstances.
Q: What if a crew member or driver tests positive in the days following a race?
A: Bobo said: “In that instance we would look at every person that driver interacted with directly and those folks would have to self-isolate and then we would obviously make sure the driver gets the car he needs. … We will be following up with each participant and we’ve asked each organization do that as well for 14 days for symptoms for anybody that has attended an event.”
Q: Will crew members at the track be allowed to work in the race shop between events.
A: Bobo said: “We’ve recommended to the teams that the people at the events not come back into the race shop.”