N.C. Governor to reveal plans this week that could impact NASCAR

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday that he will detail plans later this week on what it will take to ease the state’s stay-at-home restrictions, which could lead to the return of NASCAR racing as soon as next month.

North Carolina residents are under a stay-at-home order through April 29. Most NASCAR teams are based in North Carolina and have had their shops closed since the order began March 30. Until teams can prepare cars, NASCAR can’t race anywhere in the country. 

Since Sunday, five North Carolina state senators, the state’s Speaker of the House in the General Assembly and the state treasurer have all asked Gov. Cooper to allow NASCAR to race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend without fans.

“We are working to ease restrictions in a responsible way, in a staged way,” Gov. Cooper said during Tuesday’s media briefing. “We will be bringing forward this week more specifics on that plan to move forward and what trends, testing and tracing, that we are going to be looking at in order to begin the process to ease the restrictions.

“We understand that we can’t stay at home forever and that this is not something that is sustainable long-term, but what we have to do is ease back into it and make sure this virus does not spike, which it very easily could do, overwhelming our hospitals. You only have to look on TV at what’s happening in New York and Italy to see what could happen here. We have modeling that shows what could happen if we just remove the restrictions and say everybody go back as you were.”

NASCAR has not commented on discussions with Gov. Cooper or any discussions with governors from other states. NASCAR has stated it intends to run all 36 races, including the eight races that have been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other governors are pushing for NASCAR to return to racing in their respective states.

Florida has been active in talking with NASCAR officials. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he’s talked with Lesa France Kennedy, executive vice chair of NASCAR, about the series racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

DeSantis made sports an essential business in Florida last week provided they are closed to the public.

“I think if NASCAR does a race and can televise it without having a large crowd, I think that’s a good thing,” Gov. DeSantis said last week.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday that he had talks with NASCAR about racing at Texas Motor Speedway and said he hopes “to announce the exciting details in the near future.” His tweet raises the possibility that NASCAR and IndyCar could race at Texas Motor Speedway on the same weekend in June with no fans. Gov. Abbott said Tuesday that he will announce new plans on opening more of Texas on April 27.

Other potential states for hosting NASCAR races soon could be South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster reversed restrictions on some businesses Monday, allowing retail businesses that had been deemed nonessential earlier this month, to open. Those include sporting good stores, book, music, shoe and craft stores, among others. He also will leave it to local communities on if to open beaches in the state. Gov. McMaster made no mention of Darlington Raceway.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Monday that he will allow certain businesses, such as gyms, barber shops, tattoo parlors and bowling alleys, among others, to open Friday as part of a “measured” approach to balancing economic and public health concerns. He did not mention Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said Monday that his stay-at-home order will not be extended past April 30 and that some business will be reopening next week. That could allow for Bristol Motor Speedway to be used depending on NASCAR’s schedule.