NASCAR races in Virginia likely several weeks away

Photo: Dustin Long
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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam detailed a plan Monday for the state to reopen, but it likely means that Cup races at Martinsville Speedway and Richmond Raceway are several weeks away.

Virginia has a stay-at-home order through June 10, but Gov. Northam said during Monday’s media briefing that he plans to ease restrictions beginning May 15.

Cup races at Richmond (April 19) and Martinsville (May 9) are among the events that have been postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. No makeup dates for those races have been released.

NASCAR is scheduled to have the Cup Series race May 17 and May 20 at Darlington Raceway. The Cup Series is scheduled to race May 24 and May 27 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, told reporters last week that “the goal for us” would be to have the next three Cup events within driving distance of the race teams in the Charlotte, North Carolina region.

Gov. Northam’s plan on when to ease restrictions would not permit NASCAR to include Martinsville or Richmond in that timetable.

Phase 1 of Gov. Northam’s plan to ease restrictions would prevent social gatherings of more than 10 individuals. Gov. Northam said during his media briefing that “we anticipate Phase 1 will last about three weeks.”

If so, the phase would end June 5.

Guidelines for Phase 2 include no social gatherings of more than 50 individuals. Gov. Northam said Phase 2 would last about three weeks “as long as our health data continues to support it.”

In that scenario, Phase 2 would end June 26.

“To move to Phase 3, we’re looking for no evidence of rebound for a sustained period of time,” Gov. Northam said.

Guidelines for Phase 3 would remove the ban on social gatherings.

Based on the guidelines Gov. Northam discussed Monday, the races at Richmond and Martinsville would not be able to be held before late June. That timetable could change. In printed information on Phase 3 displayed during Monday’s briefing, it stated that the phase “could be 10-12 weeks away, or more.”

Gov. Northam, citing advice from business leaders, also said Monday that he decided against opening portions of the state that have fewer COVID-19 cases. Instead, he said restrictions will be eased statewide.