NASCAR officials are looking to keep races close to home for the foreseeable future.
“Outside the first four Cup events, the goal for us is the next, I’d say three events, we’d like to be within driveable conditions,” said NASCAR vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O’Donnell. “Once you get beyond that, we do have states that have said, ‘Hey, we’re good to go,’ and ‘We’re good to go racing.’ But our goal was to get at least seven or so events under our belt, driveable, learn where we go, and not have to put people on planes if we could avoid that.”
“Once we get beyond those seven events, we feel like we’ll be ready to continue to look at races where we may be able to travel.”
NASCAR announced a May schedule on Thursday with racing resuming May 17 at Darlington Raceway. The NASCAR Cup Series will run two races at both Darlington and Charlotte Motor Speedway, with the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series also returning to action.
More details regarding the schedule will be announced soon — the goal being before Darlington — as NASCAR is not yet ready to detail which tracks may lose their spot on the 2020 calendar.
“Those decisions have been made, but we’re not ready to announce those,” said O’Donnell. “That is not to hide the ball. That is to make sure we can have proper communication not only with those tracks and the personnel, but we’ve got a lot of fans in those areas. So, for the couple tracks where we need to move an event, we want to do that in the right way.”
The intention also remains to run “the same number of events” announced for all three series at the beginning of the season. Eight Cup Series races have been postponed, with a full season consisting of 36 events. A full Truck slate is 23 races, of which five were postponed, while the Xfinity Series needs to make up six races in its 33-race season.
One event that remains unchanged is the Southern 500 at Darlington on Labor Day Weekend. The facility will have at least three Cup Series races this year, with its Labor Day weekend being the site of the first race in the playoffs.
There are also no planned changes to the 10-race postseason that begins in September, and the hope is that Daytona will remain the race that ends the regular season.
“As of today, we expect the playoff calendar to stay intact on the Cup side and end where we had it ending (Phoenix) at the beginning of the year,” said O’Donnell. “Now again, that could change if some things happen, but that is our intent right now.”
Pocono Raceway, scheduled for late June, is also intended to remain NASCAR’s first doubleheader with a Saturday and Sunday race for the Cup Series. However, O’Donnell admitted it is fair to assume that deeper into the schedule, one or two more doubleheaders will be added.
“Purely on the schedule, we feel like we have a schedule mapped out for all three series that gets us through Phoenix, and we feel like it’s pretty well baked,” O’Donnell said. “We feel like we’ve had the right cadence with where states are, where health officials may be. Certainly, we have backups to backups to backups.
“But I would say we started with about seven pencils and a lot of erasers and have moved to pen now in terms of saying to our broadcast partners and tracks this is what we believe we can collectively do. The industry is there, as well. But until we are racing and until we see how things take place, until we see how this virus affects things down the road, we can’t say for sure.
“But I do feel confident as an industry we have a schedule that we feel like we can pull off, and we can pull off in a good way for the fans.”