The silence was stark. The separation of teams in the garage area was noticeable. Even drivers were alone as part of the social distancing mandated with NASCAR’s return from a 10-week break because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But when engines fired, even though it took place in front of empty grandstands at Darlington Raceway, racing was back. The passing. The crashing.
Even a middle finger displayed by the sport’s most popular driver toward a two-time champion.
the conversation between Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch. And what Elliott had to say to the media about the incident and how he had “no regrets” for his salute to Busch at the time.
The winners each had their own stories.
Kevin Harvick scored his 50th career Cup victory, winning last Sunday. Denny Hamlin won for the second time this season. Chase Briscoe scored an emotional Xfinity Series win two days after he and his wife found out she had a miscarriage.
As NASCAR heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for four consecutive nights of racing – starting with Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on Fox) – here’s a look back at a week unlike any other for the sport.
Everyone, including drivers, had to pass a health screening before entering the infield. John Hunter Nemechek has his temperature taken at Darlington on May 17. No driver failed the health screening during the week. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Reminders were posted throughout the garage for crew members on the new health regulations. Among the many rules was that everyone at the track had to wear a mask. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Tyler Reddick‘s crew pushes his car to inspection while following health guidelines that included wearing a mask. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, crew members stand with space between them during the national anthem before the May 17 Cup race. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Leading on the final lap of stage 1 during the May 17 Cup race, Jimmie Johnson made contact with Chris Buescher‘s car and crashed, ending Johnson’s race. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
With the return of racing, came the return of pit stops. Joey Logano‘s team services his car. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Getty Images photographer Chris Graythen told NBC Sports that this photo is the one that resonated the most to him after a week of shooting the action at Darlington. Graythen said: “To me, that (moment) kind of boiled everything down into one picture because it shows, yeah, it’s good and it’s great, NASCAR is back, we have a winner, Harvick has got his 50th win, this is all very exciting for the industry. But it also has that mask, that starkness, that quietness that shows the time that we’re in.” . (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
For the first time since 1984, the Cup Series raced on a Wednesday night. Ty Dillon‘s sponsor, GEICO, took advantage of the rare event with a special paint scheme. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Matt DiBenedetto continues to search for his first NASCAR win, but he showed he’s prepared for that moment with his special mask. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Buescher spins during the May 20 Cup race at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin with his unique mask after winning the May 20 Cup race at Darlington. Said Hamlin of the mask: “ I basically had the idea right after Sunday and to get it all done by Wednesday took a feat. We wanted to actually create different types of emotions.” He only needed the smiling version on this night. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
BJ McLeod displays his unique mask before the May 21 Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
To abide by social distancing guidelines, spotters were spread among the top rows of the empty stands for each event instead of being packed on the spotters stand. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
After rain postponed the May 19 Xfinity race and delayed it on May 21, the series finally got to run this week. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Chase Briscoe prays after his emotional win in the May 21 Xfinity Series race. The victory came two days after he and his wife found out she had a miscarriage. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)