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NASCAR’s May schedule evolving, N.C. approves Coca-Cola 600 race

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper stated Tuesday that “unless health conditions go down,” the state will allow Charlotte Motor Speedway to host the May 24 Coca-Cola 600.

That race is part of a developing schedule NASCAR is compiling for the resumption of the season. NASCAR is expected to resume the Cup season May 17 at Darlington Raceway, starting a stretch of five races in two weeks, NBC Sports has confirmed. That schedule would include mid-week races. Autoweek first reported what races NASCAR is looking at running to resume the season.

No fans are expected to be allowed at those events.

NASCAR’s schedule has been ever-changing based on a variety of factors from local and state ordinances to readiness of Cup teams to compete. The upcoming events are expected to be one-day shows with a limited number of team members, approximately 10, allowed. Practice is not expected to be held. It is expected to be qualify and race or race only.

The latest version of NASCAR’s schedule has the season resuming May 17 at Darlington Raceway with a 400-mile race. Teams would return to Darlington for another race on May 20, a Wednesday.

Gov. Cooper said last week that state health officials would have to approve Charlotte Motor Speedway hosting NASCAR races. Gov. Cooper said Tuesday that NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway had submitted safety plans and the state had responded with suggestions.

“We believe, unless health conditions go down, that we can have the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend in Charlotte,” Gov. Cooper said.

In a statement, Marcus Smith, Speedway Motorsports President and CEO, stated: “On behalf of our team at Charlotte Motor Speedway, I’d like to thank Gov. Cooper and all of our state and local government officials who are working with us to get NASCAR back on track with the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day Weekend where it belongs. We’ll have more details to share soon in conjunction with NASCAR’s release of a revised event schedule.”
After the May 24 Coca-Cola 600, the proposed schedule would have Cup teams racing again at Charlotte on May 27, a Wednesday.

Next on the schedule would be Martinsville Speedway on the final weekend of the month.

Virginia has a stay-at-home order through June 10 but there have been suggestions of easing those restrictions in areas of the state that have limited COVID-19 cases. The county that includes Martinsville Speedway and other counties nearby have had limited number of cases, according to state statistics. Easing such restrictions could allow NASCAR to race, minus fans, at Martinsville.

The proposed schedule is centered around tracks near the Charlotte region where most Cup teams are based. Teams prefer to run at races within a short drive of the Charlotte area so they can go to the track and return in one day without needing to stay at a hotel or fly.

NASCAR has stated that it intends to run the remaining 32 Cup races this season. Teams need all those races to run to collect sponsor money, prize money and TV money. Without races, teams have not brought in money. Some teams have applied for money through governmental programs.

“I think it’s really critical to have (races) within driving distance” of race shops, car owner Richard Childress told NBC Sports last week. “It’s all about being smart and being cautious and being aware of everyone around you.”

With the current schedule showing NASCAR running its first two races back at Darlington Raceway and the expectation that Darlington will still host the first race of the playoffs in September, then it would mean that the Darlington May races would replace other events on the schedule to maintain the same number of races. NASCAR has not announced such changes.