Since NASCAR returned to the track a few weeks ago after nearly a two-month layoff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen many elements that otherwise would not have been in play.
Certainly the product that has been put forth by FOX in their broadcasts has been fantastic. You get the same communication exchanges as what you did before, and some different camera angles due to the expanded space that they have to work with. For a fan watching the races on television, the only time it is noticeable that a race is being run without fans is following the race when the winner gets out of his car for the post-race interview. And the Gatorade Victory Lane festivities have been scaled way back, although I’m sure that will return before too long.
The competition has been just as intense as what you would ordinarily see. As opposed to stick and ball sports, the drivers are very much “shielded” from the fan element. And when you’re at the controls of a 3,000-pound vehicle going 200 mph, you are so focused that you don’t really pay attention to who or what is in the grandstands.
And the emotions that come with racing and victories have been just as genuine. It didn’t take long for post-race “pleasantries” to kick in when defending champion Kyle Busch wrecked Chase Elliott near the end of the second race back at Darlington, with Elliott clearly expressing his displeasure afterwards. The day before, in the Xfinity Series race at Darlington, Chase Briscoe edged out a hard-charging Busch for the win, his series-leading second of the season. His emotions were quite evident in the post-race interview going through what he described as one of the most difficult weeks of his life, as the win occurred just days after his wife suffered a miscarriage.
And last week, Elliott was once again involved in a frenetic finish, as he and Joey Logano were side-by-side for the lead at Bristol with just a few laps left. Both were overtaken by Brad Keselowski after extensive bumping resulted in their elimination from contention for the checkered flag.
The other component in this revised schedule that has caught my eye is the idea of mid-week racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. We saw it at Charlotte and Darlington, and will witness once again this Wednesday at Martinsville. There will be some others before the original schedule gets back on track.
It has provided some intriguing racing, especially during a time when NASCAR is virtually the only live sporting event taking place. For many years, some drivers as well as fans, have advocated for the idea of mid-week racing, especially during the summer months when kids are off from school and many families are taking vacations. It’s also a time when the only other pro sports being contested are Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer.
You already see it in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series when they make their annual sojourn to Eldora Speedway in Ohio. For a lot of the drivers, that atmosphere is a throwback to what they experienced as they were coming up through the ranks. It gives fans the opportunity for something they can look forward to in the middle of the week, and for the track it puts them on center stage.
This idea could conceivably work under normal circumstances, especially when the races that are run the weekend before and after are held at venues within driving distance. Drivers are racers, and they all are passionate about their craft. Like any professional athlete, they spent countless hours refining their skills, many at karting tracks or dirt tracks as they worked their way up the ladder. Being a professional NASCAR driver is something that you need to love, especially when you are driving in excess of 180 mph for 400 or 500 miles at a time.
This love has led many drivers to race in other disciplines, either during the week to fill in the gaps, or once the season ends in November. The mid-week races would help fill a little of that void.
While I think we all yearn for the time when we all get closer and closer to a racing atmosphere of what we were able to experience previously, this unique period has given the sport the opportunity to test things that might not have otherwise been possible. While the look of it has been vastly different, you might very well see some of those same things down the road.
NASCAR has been a sport that has never shied away from trying new things, and it is proving it now.
The fact that it is the first professional sport to return to the “field of play,” speaks volumes about the ingenuity of the people driving the industry.
And we look forward to being a part of this return to racing next weekend when we host four races over the course of two days during the Dixie Vodka 400 race weekend, June 13-14.
Upcoming NASCAR Schedule
Saturday, June 6, 1:00 pm , NGROTS Atlanta Motor Speedway FS1
Saturday, June 6, 4:30 pm, NXS Atlanta Motor Speedway FOX
Sunday, June 7, 3:00 pm, NCS Atlanta Motor Speedway FOX
Wednesday, June 10, 7:00 pm, NCS Martinsville Speedway FS1
*All races will air on Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
NCS – NASCAR Cup Series
NXS – NASCAR Xfinity Series
NGROTS – NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Homestead-Miami Speedway 2020 NASCAR Schedule
Saturday, June 13 - NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 12:30 pm, FS1
Saturday, June 13 - NASCAR Xfinity Series 3:30 pm, FOX
Sunday, June 14 - NASCAR Xfinity Series# 12:00 noon, FS1
Sunday, June 14 - NASCAR Cup Series Dixie Vodka 400 3:30 pm , FOX
#Realigned race from June 13 at Iowa Speedway