CHARLOTTE, NC (AP) – NASCAR can continue with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway without fans present in late May unless health conditions in the state deteriorate, the North Carolina governor said Tuesday.
Governor Roy Cooper said he and the state health authorities had talked to NASCAR and the Concord Speedway about safety protocols for running the race. Cooper said the state had contributed to NASCAR’s plan, but he believes the race can continue for the 60th consecutive Memorial Day weekend.
“We believe we can keep the Coca-Cola 600 if health conditions don̵
NASCAR gave the teams their latest revised schedule on Monday, which shows the resumption of the race on May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, followed by a second race on the track on May 20. The 600 would take place on May 24th, followed by a second race at Charlotte on May 27th.
Marcus Smith, President and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, North Carolina, thanked Cooper for working with Charlotte Motor Speedway “to get NASCAR back on track with the Coca-Cola 600 on Memorial Day weekend, where it belongs.”
Cooper extended her North Carolina stay until May 8 last week. Most of the teams are based in the Charlotte region and are expected to work as key companies again this week.
NASCAR completed four of its 36 races before the season was interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic. The sanctions authority has vowed to drive all 36 Cup Series races, though the schedule will change dramatically and some stretches are likely to be dropped this season if their condition does not permit a sporting event.
NASCAR has not yet released its security plans publicly, but it is expected that teaming will be limited, one-day events will take place, and qualifications and training will be canceled in many locations. A proposal to eliminate pit stops to reduce the number of team members on the track has stalled.
South Carolina has announced it will host a spring NASCAR race, while Florida and Texas have announced that NASCAR can compete without spectators. NASCAR is currently trying to schedule events only on routes within driving distance of the Charlotte region so teams can get on a route in one day, compete and return home without the need for air travel or hotel accommodations.
Darlington is owned by NASCAR, while Speedway Motorsports owns the Charlotte circuit. Since more events are now likely to take place on the tracks than originally planned, the track operators will probably do without events in other locations to make the 36 races fit.
Eight events have been suspended, but NASCAR may have difficulty pushing ahead with some events, such as the one scheduled for June at Sonoma Raceway in California. This track belongs to Speedway Motorsports, which could shift Sonoma’s date to another of its properties.
This type of mixing is what NASCAR is currently working on, who can enter the route and how to socially distance the teams.
North Carolina House spokesman Tim Moore, one of the state’s legislators who initially asked Cooper for permission to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, welcomed NASCAR’s return and praised the “Tar Heel Spirit.”
“I appreciate this collaboration to help NASCAR operate the Coca-Cola 600, and I believe it is an important step to bring our economy back, bring businesses back, and bring exciting competitive events back to North Carolina,” he said.