The disruptions caused by current shutdowns reach into every corner of the racing industry. RACER.com is sharing stories of how different entities in the sport are tackling these unprecedented challenges in a special series called The Lockdown Diaries.
By NASCAR standards, the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series has always had a unique schedule. Its 23 races are spread throughout the calendar, with races rarely run back-to-back and sometimes only taking place once a month.
But this season the schedule is much tighter, with stretches of two- and three-straight race weekends. The month of June has a truck race every weekend.
With the COVID-19 outbreak now interrupting the NASCAR schedule , teams might be busier than ever when racing resumes. NASCAR officials have postponed its races with the intent to reschedule all of them later, and for Hattori Racing, that means the most significant impact this break has on them is planning.
“We had a schedule to start the season, and now our schedule is completely unknown,” crew chief Scott Zipadelli told RACER. “So the only thing we can do is try to work as efficiently as possible and have spare parts built, work on our infrastructure and streamline stuff, so that when we go back racing and think about running four, five, six races in a row, which is tough for us. We probably won’t have many breaks throughout the summer.
“Once we start racing in May, we’re probably going to be racing every single weekend, or close to it, until Phoenix. So, that’s tough on our people.”
Zipadelli admitts the winter was already tough for his group. The season started with a superspeedway race in Daytona and then a week later moved to the mile-and-a-half at Las Vegas. The postponed Atlanta race would have started a stretch of three consecutive mile-and-a-half races at Atlanta, Homestead, and Texas.
“And then Richmond, which we’ve never been to,” said Zipadelli. “So, the schedule was already difficult, and now this kind of makes it even worse.”
In navigating the unknown and also trying to keep the team’s employees (there are nearly 20 between the truck and ARCA program) safe from the coronavirus, Hattori implemented a different schedule. Prior to shelter in place orders being issued, team guys were working four days a week, 10 hours a day. Lunch was made at the shop to keep anyone from going somewhere where they could be exposed to the virus, and no visitors were permitted.
Financially, Zipadelli admits that not racing does hurt Hattori because they aren’t sure about all of their partners. Right now, all have said they will honor their commitments to the team.
“It’s going to be a moving target, because we’re going to have to move races around and those sponsors had hospitality planned and guests going, so we don’t really know (the impact) to be honest with you,” said Zipadelli. “We’re OK, but it’s going to be a financial strain on everybody. Some teams more than others, because I’m going to imagine there are some sponsors (where) their business has really struggled because of this that they’re probably going back off their commitment with a lot of teams. Like local sponsors.”
And having no idea what the revised schedule might look like doesn’t help.
“I think (NASCAR) may have an idea, they’re just not sharing it,” said Zipadelli. “But I don’t think they can do anything until this thing kind of slows down.”
In taking a big picture view of the situation, Zipadelli says everyone is going to be affected by COVID-19, and he even worries about whether fans will be able to attend races. The pandemic is bringing burdens to all.
“We’ll get through it, but we’re really just like everybody else just trying work as efficiently as we can and get stuff done and prepared,” he says.