NASCAR announced Thursday that it will resume its season without fans starting May 17 at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. NASCAR joins the UFC as the first major sports organizations to announce specific return-to-play plans since the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports in mid-March, the AP reports. "NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, officials and all those in the local community," said NASCAR exec Steve O’Donnell. Only essential personnel will be permitted to attend, and cloth face masks will be required.
NASCAR's revised schedule goes only through May and has two Wednesday races, fulfilling fans' plea for midweek events. The first race is scheduled for Darlington, NASCAR's oldest superspeedway, followed by a second race at the same track three days later. Charlotte Motor Speedway will then host the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. "Sports fans around the world need this, a return to some sense of normalcy with live sports on TV, and NASCAR is uniquely positioned to deliver it from a competition standpoint," said Marcus Smith of Speedway Motorsports. NASCAR has adopted CDC guidelines on social distancing and personal protective equipment. (States competed for first events after shutdown.)