Nashville, Tenn. (WKRN)- NASCAR is set to become the first major sport to return during the COVID-19 outbreak. Racing will start up on May 17th at Darlington Raceway and then move to Charlotte Motor Speedway to end the month.
Chris Buescher drives the #17 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing and while he’s participated in some of the iRacing events, this is the news most drivers have been waiting for.
“We’ve been looking at the schedule week after week and it’s delayed a little more each time, so now we have an actual date,” said Buescher.
Racing is back, but it will look a lot different. There will be no fans.
“Without fans at the racetrack it definitely changes the energy. It’s hard to describe but we can hear the fans on our restarts and it brings something into our facilities that you can’t get without them. It’s going to be kind of spooky without them,” added Buescher.
The atmosphere will be different, but drivers know they are able to come back because of all the precautions NASCAR is taking. Buescher said that drivers and their teams have been in countless meetings with health officials and medical experts, planning out how to return safely. Protective gear, including face masks and gloves will be worn and there are also procedures put in place leading up to every race.
Buescher said, “We’re doing what we need to do in order to do this properly. Some of the things they have mentioned are heat scanning when we come to the racetrack and checkpoints to ensure social distancing. The week leading up to the race we will also have to keep very detailed reports on who we around.”
Buescher feels its safe to come back, but adds that NASCAR is different from other sports, as drivers don’t have a lot of direct contact with others during an event. That’s why it will also be a good opportunity for the sport to grow its fanbase.
“This does present us a pretty good opportunity and we do realize that and so we want to do the best that we can do in order to keep those fans and to attract them to it and put on a great show. We want to do our jobs and have fun,” added Buescher.
As for races beyond May, that is not determined yet. NASCAR wants to be able to race on tracks that don’t require much travel (driving distance), getting drivers in and out quickly.
“I know there are places outside of a drivable distance in a day that have said they would love to have our sport back, but right now it’s just now safe for us to do. I think it will stay more local for a period of time,” said Buescher.