Following is a summary of current sports news briefs.
Alonso is ready to return in 2021, says ex-boss Briatore
Two-times world champion Fernando Alonso is ready for a Formula One comeback, his long-time adviser and former Renault team boss Flavio Briatore has said amid increasing speculation about a return to Renault. The 38-year-old Spaniard left Formula One at the end of 2018 but is seen as a possible replacement for Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who is moving to McLaren in 2021.
Empty stands no issue with NASCAR fans
There was no one in the grandstands watching at Darlington Raceway but millions flocked to their televisions on Sunday to see the first live NASCAR race since the novel coronavirus outbreak shuttered North American sport two months ago. FOX Sport said on Monday that the Real Heroes 400 won by Kevin Harvick pulled in 6.32 million viewers, making it the most watched non-Daytona 500 NASCAR Cup race since Atlanta on March 5 2017.
Report: NHL plotting two playoffs hubs, 12 teams each
The NHL Board of Governors is scheduled to hold a conference call at 3 p.m. ET on Monday, and the prevailing preference appears to be using two hub cities with 12 teams apiece for the 2020 playoffs. Commissioner Gary Bettman said on multiple occasions over the past two weeks that the league is determined to hold the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Pro sports events in California could begin sans fans June 1: governor
California could allow pro sporting events to take place without fans present as soon as June 1, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday. Such a move, which would be predicated on a continued decrease of coronavirus-related cases and hospitalizations in the most populous U.S. state, comes as the San Francisco Bay Area opens for manufacturing, logistics and curbside retail services.
Colts expect QB Rivers to play more than one season
No retirement surprises the Indianapolis Colts, but head coach Frank Reich seems certain new starting quarterback Philip Rivers is good for at least two more years. Rivers signed a one-year, $25 million deal with the Colts and will start for Indianapolis in 2020. But Reich believes Rivers is planning to play more than one season, echoing a report in March from NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah that Rivers isn't close to the finish line of his career.
Immunodeficient Nance concerned about COVID-19 risk
Larry Nance Jr. wants to play basketball. If only an accurate measure of his personal risk could help guide his decision as to when it will be safe to return during the coronavirus pandemic. Nance, who has Crohn's disease and requires a treatment that significantly weakens his immune system, told ESPN on Monday that he's working out in individual sessions at the team facility. When workouts shift to team work and potentially games that count, Nance said he's hopeful the NBA is understanding of his condition.
California, New York open door for sports return
California governor Gavin Newsom cleared a path for the potential return of professional sport in the state, saying on Monday that an early June restart was possible under strict guidelines, including no fans. Shuttered for nearly two months by the novel coronavirus outbreak, the NBA, NHL, MLS and MLB are all working up scenarios to restart their seasons but any plans have had to factor in state pandemic guidelines and restrictions on large gatherings.
NASCAR official: Return 'smoother than expected'
Kevin Harvick rolled to his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series win and Darlington Raceway provided a victorious backdrop on Sunday afternoon in South Carolina. NASCAR officials said the Real Heroes 400 went over without a hitch and exceeded expectations as racing helped pave the way for popular sports pointing toward a potential return to competition.
Professional Bull Riding to bring fans back to the stands in July
Professional Bull Riding (PBR) will swing open its gates this summer, offering what it claims will be the first live pro sporting event in the U.S. with fans in attendance since the COVID-19 outbreak. As many communities across the United States remain on lockdown, PBR said it expects people in the stands at its July 10-12 bucking bull championship competition in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with the state's governor offering her endorsement.
Le Mans 24 Hours must happen, says WEC boss
A cast of top drivers will race in a virtual 24 Hours of Le Mans in June but the postponed real-life version must also happen this year, even if without spectators, World Endurance Championship (WEC) boss Gerard Neveu said on Monday. The race at the Sarthe circuit in north-west France, now in its 88th edition, is the crowning glory of the WEC season and was attended by 250,000 people in 2019 with a large number coming from Britain.