When NASCAR does return to racing this season, it’s quite possible race schedules will look a lot different than originally envisioned.
As of now, all NASCAR events have been postponed through May 3 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States. That move alone requires the rescheduling of seven Cup Series races, not to mention the Xfinity and Truck series that were also scheduled during that time.
NASCAR has said it plans to run all 36 scheduled races plus its all-star race but there is no guarantee NASCAR will be able to resume with the May 9 race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and any additional postponements would further clog the remaining calendar.
Many ideas have been floated to get all the events in, including mid-week races and more doubleheaders (Pocono is already planning a doubleheader June 27-28).
What actually takes place at the race track could also change, in order to save time and expense.
Fitting in all the postponed races
Before the Atlanta weekend was scuttled, a revised schedule saw a Saturday-only timeline for the Cup series, which included qualifying at 11 a.m. and a race at 2 p.m. and no practice.
“I think as soon as everyone got to Atlanta and saw the schedule change, it raised an eyebrow,” said driver Clint Bowyer. “We said, ‘Hey, we can do these races in a day.’ I was fine with it.
“You know we need to do whatever we can do to put on a show for all these fans across the country. If all we have time for is a one-day show, then so be it. I think we can provide enough bang for their buck.”
Kevin Harvick, a longtime proponent to changing up the Cup series schedule, said repurposing the remainder of the schedule will require NASCAR “looking outside the box.”
“Out of necessity, how we configure race weekends and when we race will have to be figured out for when we get back to racing this year. It’s actually not a bad thing.” Harvick said.
“Change is different, but it can be good, and we’ll have to think differently and be open-minded to what the rest of this year’s schedule ends up looking like.”
How might the absence of on-track practice time affect the racing?
“Teams have a lot of data simulation to predict how their car is going drive and handle at a particular track, but it’s not always perfect,” Aric Almirola said. “Oftentimes, we show up to the race track, make changes, and make the car better from the time we unload until we get ready for the race.
“Practice is always helpful, even if it’s just a little bit. It would present a challenge to not practice, but it would at least be the same for everybody.”
Rookies would likely be at the biggest disadvantage, since they have no other means of testing before moving up to the Cup series.
“If all we did was qualify, like we were set to do at Atlanta, it would put a lot of emphasis on our preparation going into the weekend,” said rookie Cole Custer. “For me, practice is just really important so we can work on the car and get used to the track.”
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