NASCAR: A sense of normalcy returns — somewhat

The NASCAR Cup Series is set for somewhat of a return to normalcy following this past race weekend doubleheader at Pocono Raceway.

NASCAR returned to action on Sunday, May 17 at Darlington Raceway following an unexpected 10-week hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, and the schedule has been packed ever since.

In less than a month and a half, the Cup Series, which had run only four of the scheduled 26 regular season races upon the conclusion of the final pre-COVID-19 race at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, March 8, has run half of the remaining regular season races.

A total of 11 races were contested over a 43-day span, including three midweek races and two as a part of the first ever weekend doubleheader at the sport’s highest level.

While the regular season technically only consists of nine more races as of now, that is because two postponed races at Michigan International Speedway and Dover International Speedway have not yet been rescheduled. That would leave 11 more races before the 10-race playoffs.

Fortunately, rescheduling those two events won’t be too much of a task because those two tracks are already scheduled to host regular season races in August.

While fans are not allowed back at all of the tracks yet and those that are allowing fans to return to the grandstands are only allowing a limited number of in-person spectators, NASCAR is back to some sense of normalcy following this past weekend’s doubleheader at Pocono Raceway.

There are 21 races until the end of the 2020 season, and 19 are currently on the schedule. Counting week by week, there are 19 weeks until the season finale.

After a gauntlet of a post-mid-May and an absolutely packed June, now things can finally start to settle in for the Cup Series as they complete the rest of the season in what appears to be a fairly ordinary fashion, assuming no more unexpected stoppages in action.

Yes, there is a midweek race on the schedule at Kansas Speedway on Thursday, July 23, but there is no race scheduled for that weekend. The only other midweek race is the non-points-paying All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday, July 15, between the race at Kentucky Speedway on Sunday, July 12 and the race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 19.

And yes, the one race per week trend that the schedule now reflects will most definitely go out the window on the second and fourth weekends in August, when it is believed that Michigan International Speedway and Dover International Speedway will run doubleheaders instead of just one race each.

But even still, 21 races over 19 weeks is a lot less hectic than 11 races over six, especially when that packed schedule came after there had been no races over the previous two-plus months. After arguably the most grueling stretch the series has ever seen, a sense of normalcy can start to return for NASCAR’s best.

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This weekend’s race, the Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400, is set to be broadcast live on NBC from Indianapolis Motor Speedway beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET in Sunday, July 5. No fans will be permitted to attend.