NASCAR remains hopeful that fans will be able to attend races later this season but has no timetable at this point.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, made the comment during an appearance Friday on NASCAR America at Home with NBC’s Rick Allen and Nate Ryan.
NASCAR announced this week its revised schedule through June 21 for Cup, Xfinity, Trucks and ARCA. No fans will be allowed at any of those events.
When fans return will be based on local and state COVID-19 guidelines for each track.
“We’d love (the fans) there this weekend,” O’Donnell said of Sunday’s Cup race at Darlington Raceway, “but we also understand that we’ve got to do what’s right in the local communities in each state. Some of the calls we’ve had with governors have said, ‘Hey, we may be ready and we may be open to that,’ so I’m encouraged by those conversations. We’ve not heard a ‘no way’ for the rest of the year.”
Among the plans by states to ease restrictions, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a five-phase plan May 1. It lists goals of permitting social gatherings of more than 250 people and sports events to resume by July 4. The NASCAR Xfinity and NTT IndyCar Series are scheduled to have a doubleheader July 4 on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and the Cup series is scheduled to compete on the oval on July 5.
O’Donnell said that NASCAR is close to completing its schedule for the rest of the season. He said series officials had a call scheduled Friday with a governor that he did not reveal to see if that state would be “good to go” with NASCAR’s race dates “and then we would be set. As long as things stay the same or continue to improve, we feel really good about the schedule in place.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf confirmed he talked with NASCAR, according to a tweet from Dan Gelston of The Associated Press and that Gov. Wolf “told them Pennsylvania is not ready to make a decision.”
The Cup series is scheduled to run a doubleheader June 27-28 at Pocono Raceway.
More Wolf: " The area that they want to have this gathering in is actually in the red right now, red zone, red phase, so I told them Pennsylvania is not ready to make a decision.”
— Dan Gelston (@APgelston) May 15, 2020
O’Donnell said that NASCAR had a call scheduled Friday with drivers to go over procedures for Sunday’s race. A question among some drivers has been about confronting a competitor after the race to discuss or argue an incident that happened during the event.
“I think from our standpoint, it’s not lost on us the responsibility we have as a sport in showcasing the protocols that we have in place,” O’Donnell said. “I would say that we would heavily discourage (confrontations). We’ve got a lot on the line with this race to be able to race. We understand emotions will be high. Maybe that’s something we call (UFC President) Dana White up and he can arrange a separate bout for those guys in Jacksonville (Florida). We can send them down there on Monday, and they could come back and join us for the race (at Darlington) on Wednesday.”
Officials from others sports and health officials are expected to be at Darlington to monitor how NASCAR runs its health screening process and its event, O’Donnell said on NASCAR America at Home.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations,” O’Donnell said of talks with other sports leagues. “(NASCAR President) Steve Phelps talked to folks at the NBA, obviously we’ve talked to IndyCar, the Carolina Panthers. We’ll have a representative from the Carolina Panthers there (the team’s director of security). Obviously, outside the track but just kind of observing what we’re doing as people come in, protocols, what they can learn as well.
“And then we’ll have health officials from the Charlotte area coming down to look at what’s in place. What we may need to tweak in terms of being able to enhance our protocols at Charlotte as well, so we’ve been really transparent with what we’re doing with other leagues. By the same token, the other leagues have been the same. I think what’s great about this is we all want to be back. We all want to be back in a way that’s safe, so if we can share and learn from each other, I think that’s what we’ve done, and it’s worked well.”