Start your engines: NASCAR to resume season, Coca-Cola 600 will run without fans

CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR will resume its season without fans starting May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. It will be the first race in nearly two months after suspending the season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The premier Cup Series will then race three more times in a 10-day span, with one more at Darlington and then two at the track outside Charlotte, in Concord.

No fans will be in attendance for the races as officials adhere to social distancing measures. Further schedule adjustments will be announced in the future.

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The 61st running of the legendary Coca-Cola 600 will take place on Sunday, May 24, at 6:00 p.m. during Memorial Day Weekend as NASCAR brings live competition back to a worldwide broadcast audience on FOX and PRN. Due to continued restrictions on public gatherings during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the race will take place without spectators in attendance. The May 16 NASCAR All-Star Race has been postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date.

“I’d like to thank Gov. Cooper, NASCAR and all of our state and local government and health officials who have worked so hard with us to make this happen,” said Speedway Motorsports President and Chief Executive Officer Marcus Smith. “This has been a proactive effort to put our motorsports industry back to work and boost the morale of sports fans around the world, while at the same time keeping the health and safety of all who will be on-site the top priority.

“As America fights its way back from the pandemic and the economic shutdown, we’re proud that one of the world’s most iconic races, the Coca-Cola 600, will take place on Memorial Day Weekend as it traditionally has for nearly six decades,” said Smith. “As one of the first races back on television, the Coca-Cola 600 will be part of America’s broadcast coming-out party for live, major-league sports competition. Sports fans around the world need this -- a return to some sense of normalcy with live sports on TV -- and NASCAR is uniquely positioned to deliver it from a competition standpoint.

“Like our fans, we are disappointed that they cannot join us at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the race, but we understand these are unprecedented circumstances dictated by what’s best for the health and safety of the general public,” Smith added. “We ask every race fan to tune in with us to FOX to celebrate another historic Coca-Cola 600 and salute our U.S. Armed Forces on Memorial Day Weekend.”

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TICKETS: Coca-Cola 600 and NASCAR All-Star Race weekend ticket holders on file may choose to receive an event credit for the full amount paid plus an additional 20 percent, or choose to receive a full refund of their purchase price.* The event credit can be applied toward any admissions, including, but not limited to, grandstand seating, infield tickets, camping, fan hospitality and pit passes. The 120-percent event credit can be used during the remaining 2020 or 2021 seasons for a NASCAR sanctioned event at any Speedway Motorsports owned track, subject to availability.

Fans are advised to keep their current tickets and asked to complete an exchange request form at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com to start the process. Exchange credit or refund requests must be made within 30 days. Ticket office representatives will follow up with fans within three weeks regarding the status of their request. Ticket holders should email tickets@charlottemotorspeedway.com or call 1-800-455-FANS (3267) with further questions.

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NASCAR joins the UFC as the first major sports organizations to announce specific return to play plans since the coronavirus pandemic shut down U.S. sports in mid-March.

“NASCAR and its teams are eager and excited to return to racing, and have great respect for the responsibility that comes with a return to competition,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, officials and all those in the local community. We thank local, state and federal officials and medical experts, as well as everyone in the industry, for the unprecedented support in our return to racing, and we look forward to joining our passionate fans in watching cars return to the track.”

“We are excited to welcome back the FOX NASCAR season to our airwaves to provide a return to live sports, a move toward normalcy and a much-needed distraction during these unprecedented times,” said Mark Silverman, President, National Networks, FOX Sports. “While we are thrilled to return to the race track, the health and safety of our employees and all race participants is our top priority. We will continue working in lockstep with our partners at NASCAR and the race tracks to follow all national and local health guidelines.”

Following thorough collaboration with public health officials, medical experts and state and federal officials, NASCAR has implemented a comprehensive health and safety plan. In accordance with CDC, OSHA and state and local government recommendations, nearly every aspect of how the event is conducted will be significantly modified, including:

  • One-day shows;
  • Mandated use of personal protective equipment throughout the event;
  • Health screenings for all individuals prior to entering the facility, while inside the facility and exiting the facility;
  • Social distancing protocols throughout the event;
  • Strict limits on the number of individuals who are granted access into each facility

As NASCAR works towards the execution of these events, the sanctioning body will continue to work with state and local authorities based on trends and local restrictions.

In-race competition procedures remain largely unchanged, though NASCAR will eliminate practice for all events during this opening return slate, as well as qualifying for all events except the Coca-Cola 600.