NASCAR vows to run full season despite coronavirus uncertaintyOrlando Sentinel — By Edgar Thompson Orlando Sentinel
March 17-- NASCAR is idling in neutral, but once coronavirus fears have passed, the sport plans to get back on track and push hard to the finish line.
The season might be on hold until at least early May, but NASCAR president Steve Phelps remains determined to run the 2020 schedule in full.
A myriad logistics will have to be ironed out once sports-and the rest of society-are given the green light to resume the countless activities canceled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Seven total NASCAR races have been put on hold, with a planned return on May 9 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. The sport had run just four of 36 scheduled events prior to postponing last week's race in Atlanta and this week's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"We have a commitment to our fans that we're going to run all the races," Phelps said during a conference call Tuesday. "We have a commitment to all our competitors that we run all the races. We have a commitment to the stakeholders broadly that we're going to run all the races.
The fact the NASCAR season runs nearly nine months, beginning with the Daytona 500 in mid-February, leaves little wiggle room at either end of the calendar.
Even so, Phelps said he still hopes to conclude the playoffs Nov. 8 in Phoenix, which replaces Homestead as the site of the season finale for the first time following an offseason schedule shake-up.
Phelps said he would consider options that include midweek races and doubleheaders.
"It will require a lot of different opportunities for us to look at," he said. "We're in the process of doing that."
Finding a spot in the schedule for the seven postponed races prior to the start of the Sept. 6 playoffs could put NASCAR head to head with the Tokyo Olympics. Broadcast partner NBC Sports originally had requested NASCAR take a break while the Olympics were staged.
"Will it be a crowded landscape, television landscape, with a lot of different sports on? Yes, it's going to be," Phelps said "I think, again, we'll work with our television partners to find the appropriate windows so we can get back racing and make sure our fans get the opportunity to see that racing."
While facing a national crisis, NASCAR plans to remain on target to make sweeping changes to the sport in 2021.
The rollout of the Next Gen car and a revamped schedule are expected to invigorate the sports, but more immediate concerns face NASCAR.
Keeping races teams afloat is a major financial challenge and concern. Teams already struggled with expenses before coronavirus hammered sponsors' balance sheets.
Sponsors fuel the sport, but they may want back the investments they already made to field cars and pay drivers and staff members since no one will be on the track. Meanwhile, race purses awarded teams are being put on a hold.
Phelps said NASCAR aims to help race teams stay afloat.
One step has been banning car tests, including the use of wind tunnels or manufacturer-owned simulators.
"We are working with our teams closely to have them industry wide to make sure we are all financially viable moving forward during this postponement of our races," he said. "Are we concerned about teams broadly and their financial health? Of course we are. We want to make sure that each of our teams gets through this, each of our stakeholders in the industry gets through this crisis as well as we all can."
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