NASCAR releases updated 2020 schedule, confirms return date

Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, and Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Darlington Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports, and Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Darlington Raceway, NASCAR (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

NASCAR has officially set a return date for the 2020 season, as the Cup Series is set to be back in action at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 17.

If everything goes as planned, there will be NASCAR racing again in about two and a half weeks.

For the first time since NASCAR was forced to bring the the 2020 season to a screeching halt as a result of the coronavirus pandemic back in March after just four of the scheduled 36 races had been contested, fans have something to look forward to in the form of a real-life race date.

NASCAR released an updated short-term schedule which begins at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 17 and includes four races from that date up until Wednesday, May 27.

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There had initially been only one race scheduled to take place during this 11-day span.

With eight races having been postponed to drop the scheduled race total from 36 to 28, this brings that total back up to 31, five shy of the goal to run a full schedule despite the pandemic.

NASCAR will undoubtedly have more changes to make to the schedule in the future, not just because this short-term scheduled only runs through May but because of the fact that three of the four races on this updated schedule are races that were not initially on the schedule in any capacity, from February to November.

As a result, some tracks will inevitably end up losing race dates in the long run, despite the fact that the pandemic did not initially cause them to be wiped off of the schedule.

But notably, none of the race dates included on this new four-race schedule previously belonged to other tracks that were not originally forced to lose their race dates as a result of the pandemic.

Here is this updated four-race schedule.

NOTE: * = race was not initially on the schedule

Date, Time - Track (Length) Sunday, May 17, 3:30 p.m. ET - Darlington Raceway* (400 miles) Wednesday, May 20, 7:30 p.m. ET - Darlington Raceway* (500 kilometers - 310.686 miles) Sunday, May 24, 6:00 p.m. ET - Charlotte Motor Speedway (600 miles) Wednesday, May 27, 8:00 p.m. ET - Charlotte Motor Speedway* (500 kilometers - 310.686 miles)

Darlington Raceway is still scheduled to host the Southern 500 on Sunday, September 6 as planned. Neither one of the two races at the track on this schedule replace that event. The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is actually scheduled to take place as planned.

Fox is set to broadcast both of the Sunday races while Fox Sports 1 is set to broadcast both of the Wednesday races.

A return to action on Sunday, May 17 at the four-turn, 1.366-mile (2.198-kilometer) oval in Darlington, South Carolina is slated to mark the first real-life action in 10 weeks.

“NASCAR and its teams are eager and excited to return to racing, and have great respect for the responsibility that comes with a return to competition,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, officials and all those in the local community. We thank local, state and federal officials and medical experts, as well as everyone in the industry, for the unprecedented support in our return to racing, and we look forward to joining our passionate fans in watching cars return to the track.”

This four-race schedule is in line with the schedule that NASCAR released to teams earlier this week, although that schedule included eight races from Sunday, May 17 to Sunday, June 14. Dates beyond Wednesday, May 27 are still not officially confirmed.

The eight tracks that saw their races postponed earlier this season but have not yet found new dates are Atlanta Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway, Dover International Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.

Of those eight tracks, only Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway do not have second race dates already.

This new schedule also included race dates for the Xfinity Series and Truck Series. The Xfinity Series is set to compete at Darlington Raceway on Tuesday, May 19 at 8:00 p.m. ET and Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET while the Truck Series is set to competed at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday, May 26 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Those races are all set to be broadcast live on Fox Sports 1.

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The eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series has been serving as the virtual replacement for real-life Cup Series action during these unprecedented times. The sixth and final race of the series is scheduled to take place at virtual Dover International Speedway this Sunday, May 3.