NASCAR President Steve Phelps said that series officials are looking “broadly at what our options are” but intend to run every points race and the All-Star race this season and are planning to reschedule postponed races before the playoffs so the season can end as scheduled at Phoenix Raceway.
Phelps acknowledged in a teleconference with reporters Tuesday — the first time he’s spoken to reporters since last weekend’s races at Atlanta Motor Speedway were postponed — that there is the possibility of races being run without fans. He noted that many questions remain in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and such decisions will be based on what health experts that NASCAR consult with suggest.
MORE: Full transcript of NASCAR President Steve Phelps’ call with reporters
Phelps also said that officials had no specifics on any financial help for teams with the sport paused until at least May 3 but said “we want to make sure teams get through this.” NASCAR has postponed seven race weekends (nearly 20% of the season). The next Cup race scheduled is May 9 at Martinsville Speedway.
As for this year’s schedule, Phelps said: “At this particular point, we would like to finish the season at Phoenix and keep the playoff portion intact. With that said, that would require a lot of different opportunities for us to look at and we’re in the process of doing that. No specifics about mid-week races. I’ve heard about doubleheaders and different things. At this particular point, a lot of things on the table for us to look at, working with our race teams, working with our race tracks to make sure the things that are put on the table are feasible to do.”
The Cup playoffs are scheduled to begin Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway and end Nov. 8 at Phoenix Raceway.
Phelps later said in the call with reporters that he hoped not to have doubleheaders during the playoffs at tracks that have had races postponed (Bristol, Texas, Martinsville and Talladega).
As for racing without fans, Phelps said: “Would we consider racing without fans at some point to get back racing more quickly? That’s in the consideration set. I don’t know. It’s changing so rapidly and what it means for mass gatherings and what is that number. We’ll work with our health officials and we’re working with a number of infectious disease professionals that are going to help us through what that looks like and whether it makes sense to race without fans or have our first race be back with fans.”
As for the teams and the financial hardships they could face before racing is scheduled to resume in May and if NASCAR would provide any type of subsidy, Phelps said: “No specifics around subsidies or anything of that nature. We are working with our teams closely to … make sure we are all financially viable moving forward during this postponement of our races.”
Later in the call Phelps was asked about that topic and said: “Are we concerned about teams broadly and their financial health? Of course we are. We want to make sure that each of our teams gets through this, each of our stakeholders in the industry gets through this crisis as well as we all can.
“Lots of things on the table. No specifics at this point that we are prepared to discuss. Financially we need to make sure that our financials are handled with obviously the stakeholders separately, make sure that we are all aligned with what that’s going to look like. As of right now, nothing to share.”
As for the impact this delay is having on the Next Gen car, which is set to debut next season, Phelps said: “We are still pushing forward right now with the Next Gen car. We are still pushing forward with changes to our (2021) schedule. We’re trying to do it as smartly as we can.
“The variables keep changing, right? The hurdles keep being put in front of this industry, and this industry keeps jumping over them, then there’s another, it jumps over that, then another and another.
“It’s not an easy situation for sure, but it’s one that this industry is managing together. Really proud of how this industry has come together to try to support each other and to try to get through this as best we can. Again, it’s a difficult situation.”