NASCAR's Planned Return to Racing Is Incredibly Ambitious

NASCAR Cup Series FanShield 500 - Practice
NASCAR Cup Series FanShield 500 - Practice / Chris Graythen/Getty Images

NASCAR has announced it will return to racing on May 17th, kicking off its proposed schedule at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. That would begin a bold stretch that would see four Cup Series races in 11 days and seven total events in that span. It's an incredibly ambitious plan.

NASCAR plans to hold two Cup races each at Darlington and Charlotte Motor Speedway. On May 17, there will be a 400-mile Cup race at Darlington, then the Xfinity series will hold a 200-mile race on May 19. That will be followed by another Cup race at the track on May 20 (500 km). On May 24, the series will shift to Charlotte where the Coca-Cola 600 will take place. The Xfinity Series will hold a 300-mile race at Charlotte on May 25, followed by a 200-mile Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks Series race on May 26, and a final Cup Series race at Charlotte on May 27.

Yes, that's seven races under the organization's banner in that stretch and not a whole lot of recovery time for the drivers. It's worth noting the races will not have fans in attendance. The stretch would also feature midweek races, something fans of the sport have long pleaded for.

NASCAR also has a list of rule changes for the scheduled races that mostly deal with keeping the number of people involved to a minimum. For example, each team will only be allowed 16 members, including the driver.

According to NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell, the details are still being worked out. As it stands now, the Darlington races would be run without practice or qualifying, which seems like a bad idea. Throwing the drivers back in cold after a few months off seems like a risk.

Most NASCAR teams are headquartered in the Charlotte area, so opening in the Carolinas makes sense. The series has tentative plans to keep racing through June and beyond, but the schedule hasn't been nailed down yet. The tracks for those additional races would almost certainly have to be within driving distance of Charlotte.

NASCAR and the UFC are the only sports leagues to set firm dates for returning to competition since the coronavirus pandemic began. Both have laid our ambitious plans that involve a number of events in a short time.