There will be no shortage of racing this weekend.
Between NASCAR’s doubleheader Cup and Xfinity races at Dover International Speedway and the Indy 500 on Sunday, the television schedule will be packed for motorsports fans.
The stands, however, will be fan-free. The Indy 500 is running without spectators in attendance for the first time in the event’s 104-year history due to the coronavirus pandemic. The race starts Sunday at 2:30 p.m. on NBC. Marco Andretti, grandson of 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti, is starting on the pole after finishing with a four-lap average of 231.068 mph during the Fast Nine Shootout last Sunday.
As the Indy 500 is under way, NASCAR’s second Cup race of a two-day event weekend at Dover will kickoff. Both races of the Drydene 311 are scheduled for the same time each day Saturday and Sunday, 4 p.m. on NBCSN. (The Xfinity races at Dover will run at 12:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.)
The format of the Cup races will also be the same both days; 311 miles with stages ending on laps 70, 185 and 311.
The “Monster Mile,” a one-mile intermediate track, has seen nine different race winners entered in this weekend’s Cup lineup, including Jimmie Johnson (11 wins), Kyle Busch (three) and Kurt Busch (one), all of whom still need a race win this season.
While the Busch brothers still sit above the playoff cutoff in points as the 12th and 13th drivers eligible to make it to postseason, Kurt with +121 points above the cutoff and Kyle with +100, seven-time Cup Series champion Johnson is ranked 17th, and sits 25 points below his Hendrick teammate William Byron as the last driver to make it into the playoffs.
“I’ve helped my competition,” Johnson said, referring to his successful past runs at Dover with Chad Knaus as his former crew chief. Knaus is now the crew chief for Byron.
“Especially inside the walls of Hendrick Motorsports,” Johnson said. “Chad Knaus is on the box of the 24 car as we all know, and William is a great student and has really increased his game at Dover, so I don’t think it’s going to be easy to get points on him, or especially a lot of points.”
Johnson added that Dover is a track “where you can get caught up in stuff and have a lot of cars affected.”
“And then we roll into Daytona after that, which who knows even really how to approach that,” Johnson said.
As the No. 48 driver searches for a win and points in the three races remaining in the regular season, No. 9 driver Chase Elliott will be looking to maintain his pole starting position (Elliott won last weekend’s road course race at Daytona and the start through a performance-based formula), as No. 3 driver Austin Dillon returns to the field after testing positive for COVID-19 and missed last weekend’s race. Dillon was medically cleared by NASCAR and his team to return to competition Thursday after receiving two negative tests at least 24 hours apart.
No. 13 Cup driver Ty Dillon said he had texted his older brother earlier in the week checking in and that Austin said he had gotten in a workout and was feeling better as he regained his energy. Ty said that when Austin first reported his positive test he had “felt kinda achy and not great, but he didn’t have anything too severe.”
“It’s crazy times right now and everyone’s gotta be careful,” Ty Dillon said. “Everybody’s gotta do their part not only to protect their jobs, but to protect their family. I have a wife and a daughter and my wife’s pregnant right now, so it’s a scary time. So we all have to do what we can as far as wearing our masks and washing our hands and just being aware.”
WEATHER IN DOVER FOR NASCAR CUP DOUBLEHEADER
While temperatures will be cooler this weekend for NASCAR at Dover than last weekend at Daytona, thunderstorms are likely to impact at least one, if not both, Cup races. There is a 40 to 60 percent chance of storms Saturday afternoon, according to the National Weather Service and AccuWeather.com. On Sunday, there is a 40 chance of rain and thunderstorms after 2 p.m. as storm cells move northeast across the coast over the weekend.
In addition to the lower temperatures, NASCAR and its driver are hoping that the removal of the right-side window for this weekend’s races helps cool the interior temperatures of the cars after drivers said their cars had gotten dangerously hot last weekend at Daytona. NASCAR has updated its rules to attempt to create more airflow inside the cockpits for this weekend’s race.
HOW TO WATCH NASCAR CUP DOUBLEHEADER AT DOVER
Race: Drydene 311 (Note: Race format, time, channels are the same Saturday and Sunday)
Distance: 311 miles, 311 laps (Stages end on laps 70, 185 and 311)
When: Sunday, 4 p.m.
TV: NBCSN (broadcast starts at 3:30 p.m.)
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Last Dover winner: Martin Truex Jr.
Note: Sunday lineup will be and invert of the top-20 finishing order Saturday (positions 21-40 will be based on the metrics formula from first race)
STARTING LINEUP FOR SATURDAY NASCAR CUP RACE AT DOVER
|3||Martin Truex Jr.||19|
|19||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||47|
|31||John Hunter Nemechek||38|
WEATHER IN INDIANAPOLIS FOR THE INDY 500
The Indy 500 similarly could experience storms. There is a 51 percent chance of rain Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis, according to AccuWeather.com. There is also a projected high of 85 degrees and partly cloudy sky conditions. But despite the heat and humidity, AccuWeather meteorologist Dan Pydynowski said in an email that “any chance for a thunderstorm looks small and remote, so the race is likely to be run under dry conditions.”
“If any thunderstorms do pop around the speedway on Sunday afternoon,” Pydynowski said, “it should be brief and only delay the race and not cause a postponement.”
HOW TO WATCH THE INDY 500 AT INDIANAPOLIS
- Race: Indianapolis 500
- Distance: 500 miles, 200 laps
- When: Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
- TV: NBC (broadcast starts at 1 p.m.)
- Radio: SiriusXM, INDYCAR Radio Network
- Last Indy 500 winner: Simon Pagenaud
STARTING LINEUP FOR THE INDY 500