Dana White

When can fans attend NASCAR races?

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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.

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.”

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President Trump seeks to make sports central part of economic revival

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President Donald Trump spoke with sports leaders Wednesday, expressing his desire to make sports a central part America’s economic revival, according to a press pool report.

The report sates that Lesa France Kennedy, executive vice chair, represented NASCAR on the call. Others on the call included NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred.

According to the press pool report: “The President expressed optimism to the major sports organizations that are eager to get their athletes back on courts, courses, and fields of play, and for the millions of sports fans who are missing their favorite teams and players. Leaders of the sports organizations expressed appreciation for the President’s attention to their industry and offered innovative input on social distancing guidelines.

“President Trump acknowledged the important role that sports play in American life and expressed his desire to make sports a central part of the great American economic revival.”

MORE: Dr. Anthony Fauci on how sports can return: Regular testing, no fans

MORE: N.C. Gov: “Our new normal” may have no in-person crowds for awhile

President Trump held a call with sports league executives April 4. That call included NASCAR President Steve Phelps. President Trump later said in a press briefing that day:

I want fans back in the arenas. Whenever we’re ready and as soon as we can, obviously. The fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out on the golf courses and breath nice clean beautiful air.

“I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later. We’re not going to have to have separation for the rest of our times on the planet. We need it for this period of time. Eventually, people are going to be able to occupy those seats in arenas next to each other like we have for all of my life and all of your life.”

NASCAR has postponed seven races through May 3 at Dover International Speedway. NASCAR’s next scheduled race is May 9 at Martinsville Speedway, but Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a stay-at-home order from March 30 to June 10. The next scheduled events after that would be All-Star weekend (May 14-16) and Coca-Cola 600 weekend (May 22-24) at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina.

According to the press pool report, these were the individuals on Wednesday’s call with President Trump:

* Todd Ricketts—Chicago Cubs
* Jerry Jones—Dallas Cowboys
* Mark Cuban—Dallas Mavericks
* Ari Emanuel— Endeavor
* Robert Kraft—The Kraft Group
* Mike Whan—LPGA
* Robert Manfred— MLB
* Don Garber—MLS
* Adam Silver—NBA
* Lesa Kennedy—NASCAR
* Mark Emmert—NCAA
* Roger Goodell—NFL
* Gary Bettman—NHL
* Lisa Baird—NWSL
* Jay Monahan—PGA TOUR
* Dana White—UFC
* Sarah Hirshland—U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee
* Patrick Galbraith—USTA
* Cathy Engelbert—WNBA
* Vince McMahon—WWE