NASCAR: Are race cancellations inevitable?

Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Erik Jones, Joe Gibbs Racing, NASCAR (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

With NASCAR having added races that were not previously on the schedule, are race cancellations inevitable at certain tracks moving forward?

NASCAR has not seen any on-track action in nearly two months, as the 2020 season was brought to an unexpected standstill following the Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, March 8 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

But with conditions improving in certain areas of the Southeast, NASCAR announced that the plan is to return to action at Darlington Raceway on Darlington, South Carolina on Sunday, May 17.

NASCAR released an updated schedule for the end of May, and it includes four Cup Series races in an 11-day span, a span that would have otherwise featured only one race.

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One race is scheduled to take place as planned all along, and that race is the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 24.

But other than that, the three races that are scheduled to take place between now and the end of May are not races that were originally on the schedule.

Aside of the Coca-Cola 600, there are two races at Darlington Raceway and one other race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. There was one race at Darlington Raceway originally on the schedule on Sunday, September 6, but that race, the Southern 500, has not been replaced by either one of these other two races at the four-turn, 1.366-mile (2.198-kilometer) oval.

There is another race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the schedule as well on Sunday, October 11, but that race is still scheduled to take place at the 17-turn, 2.28-mile (3.669-kilometer) roval, not the four-turn, 1.5-mile (2.414-kilometer) oval, and was not replaced by the non-Coca-Cola 600 event.

NASCAR has maintained that the goal is still to run a full 36-race schedule, despite the fact that the pandemic has caused eight postponements. As a result, the scheduled race total dropped from 36 to 28. This new four-race schedule lifts it back up by three to 31, since there was only scheduled to be one race during this 11-race span.

But none of the eight postponed races have been rescheduled at this point. They had been scheduled to take place at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Talladega Superspeedway, Dover International Speedway and Martinsville Speedway, respectively.

Of those eight tracks, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway are the only two without second race dates.

A 36-race schedule would only allow for five more races to be added. So even if all eight of these races end up being rescheduled, that would mean that three other races would have to be removed from the schedule — and even this scenario assumes that there are no more postponements due to the pandemic and that there have, in fact, been 36 races contested by the time the season ends.

With all things considered, not every track on the schedule is going to host the same number of races it was scheduled to host heading into the season, and yes, some tracks will end up hosting fewer.

But hopefully all 23 venues (24 tracks) will still get to host at least one race.

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Tune in to NBC at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 17 for NASCAR’s scheduled return to action at Darlington Raceway.