NASCAR has revealed the three tracks sacrificing Cup Series dates as it attempts to race all 36 points races in 2020 amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
With the sanctioning body’s push to run four Cup races from May 17-27 at Darlington and Charlotte, three races elsewhere on the schedule needed to be replaced. The postponed April race at Richmond will not be made up at the track, while future dates at Chicago (June 21) and Sonoma (June 14) will not happen.
“Due to the current pandemic, NASCAR has faced several difficult decisions, including realigning race dates from several race tracks,” a NASCAR statement said. “These decisions were made following thorough collaboration with local and state government officials from across the country, including the areas of the affected race tracks. We thank all our fans for their support and we look forward to our return to racing.”
NASCAR will run Cup Series races at Darlington on May 17 and 20 while also still keeping the fall race weekend at the track on the schedule. The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte is set to be run as scheduled on May 24 while another race at Charlotte will be run on May 27. Those two tracks were picked because of their proximity to teams’ home bases in Charlotte as well as South Carolina’s willingness to host NASCAR races in May.
Cutting all three of Chicago, Richmond and Sonoma make sense for varying reasons. While Chicago has produced compelling racing over the last few years, it’s struggled to draw the crowds that it used to and its race date has been shuffled around. It was the site of the first playoff race from 2011-17 before getting moved back to the middle of the summer in 2018.
Much of the track’s staff was also reportedly laid off amidst NASCAR’s most recent round of layoffs this week. The track is now owned by NASCAR after the sanctioning body purchased sister company International Speedway Corporation and racing in the future at Chicago is something that is solely up to NASCAR’s discretion.
“The difficult decision to realign our race events was a combination of where we fell on the schedule, proximity to NASCAR’s teams and the safety and well-being of our community and larger NASCAR industry,” Chicagoland Speedway president Scott Paddock said in a statement. “We will miss the roar of the engines at Chicagoland Speedway this season but we will be rooting for and supporting our NASCAR colleagues at Darlington Raceway as competition returns on Sunday, May 17.”
Richmond’s another track that has suffered from attendance woes in recent years and is also located in Virginia, a state with a stay-at-home order that goes into June. While it would have been an easy place for NASCAR teams to travel to for a makeup race, NASCAR clearly felt it needed to go other places. And with a fall date at the track, it’s not abandoning the market completely.
Sonoma, meanwhile, is the only cross-country trek left on the schedule for teams until the playoffs begin. The track’s location and its lack of lighting across the road course meant that it had to host a weekend race at some point during the season with the June 14 date likely in jeopardy because of the state’s coronavirus rules.
NASCAR has not announced what its schedule will be like after the May 27 race at Charlotte. It seems likely to race next at tracks that are still within a relatively short drive of the Charlotte area, meaning Bristol and Atlanta could be next on the list.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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