North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has extended the state’s stay-at-home orders by nine days but also appeared to indicate race teams could work in their shops.
“From the information that I have now, already under our state executive order they can begin working in their garages as an essential business defined under our executive order,” said Gov. Cooper on Thursday afternoon. “(Teams) are still in contact with local health departments. Local governments may have some different health restrictions.”
NASCAR has not raced since March 8 and shops have been closed since a 30-day stay-at-home order began on March 30. It was supposed to end on April 29, but in his latest COVID-19 press briefing Gov. Cooper extended it through May 8.
“After a thorough analysis of the details of testing, tracing, and trends, and having conversations with Trump Administration officials like Dr. (Anthony) Fauci, it’s clear that we are on the right path but that our state is not ready to lift restrictions yet,” said Gov. Cooper. “We need to slow the virus before we can ease restrictions.
“It’s important to get our economy moving forward. We’re helping with unemployment payments, stimulus money and the businesses that continue to be open. But I won’t risk the health of our people or our hospitals. And easing these restrictions now would do that.”
NASCAR’s plans to return to racing remain undefined, although officials recently stated hopes of being able to return sometime in May and different tracks have begun expressing interest in hosting a fan-less event.
The Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway (pictured above) is the next scheduled event. Texas Motor Speedway track president Eddie Gossage and Governor Greg Abbott have spoken about racing returning there soon, while South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway has also been floated as a possible comeback venue.
Reached by RACER, Darlington officials declined to comment. However, S.C. tourism chief Duane Parrish confirmed to The State newspaper that NASCAR will be racing at Darlington, and there is speculation it could be as early as next month.
“The RBC Heritage announced they will be playing a made-for-television event, no spectators,” said Parrish on Thursday. “Before that, Darlington will broadcast a race as well with NASCAR. So we do have some lights at the end of the tunnel in regards to events.”
“I’ve been in contact with NASCAR officials, track owners, team owners (and) they have come forward with a plan to try to protect their employees,” said Gov. Cooper when specifically asked about NASCAR. “Right now, our public health officials are examining their proposals, they’re also talking to local governments there, their garages in several counties around Charlotte … about how they would run their garages and to get the cars ready, they need a couple of weeks ahead of time.
“We’ll be coming forward with an announcement on that pretty soon, after we’ve had more conversations with public health officials and with NASCAR officials.”
This story was updated to include quotes from Duane Parrish.