NASCAR Returned Without Fans. Here's How It Went

Consensus: A little weird, but OK once the race got underway
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2020 8:24 AM CDT

(Newser) – NASCAR got back to racing on Sunday, though in unprecedented fashion at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. As in, the grandstands were empty and team members at the track followed strict protocols, including face masks and social distancing. So how did it go? Not so bad, is the general consensus:

  • Normalcy: The hours before the race were strange, as were the celebratory donuts by winning driver Kevin Harvick in front of the empty stands when it was over, writes Ryan McGee at ESPN. "But the 3 hours, 30 minutes and 34 seconds in between? Those felt perfectly normal. The most normal that anyone in the NASCAR community, fan or competitor, has felt in nearly 2½ months."
  • Presentation is key: "It was hard to ignore the empty grandstands early on but once the race was in full swing, it didn't really matter," writes Nate Saunders at ESPN. "The key is the way the race is presented." Unlike in other sports (think soccer and football), racing broadcasters "can lean on clever camera work to (minimize) the impact, with on-board camera shots and, in NASCAR's case, cameras inside the car looking at the driver."

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  • Drivers' take: "It was definitely different for sure," says driver Denny Hamlin, per NBC Sports. "Just very subdued, very quiet. That’s the biggest thing I noticed, it was just how quiet everything was." Fellow racer Martin Truex Jr. had a similar take: "It definitely had a weird feel to it. It almost felt like we were at a test session. ... It was just kind of strange, but at the same time everybody was excited to be there and be able to get back to a little bit of normal even though it wasn’t quite normal."
  • Summing up: "It was nothing close to the corporate sponsorship, pomp and patriotic traveling circus that symbolizes NASCAR," writes Jenna Fryer at the AP. "But when the engines fired at Darlington Raceway following a 10-week layoff during the coronavirus pandemic, it turned into a regular old race."
(Read more NASCAR stories.)

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