NASCAR hopes to run full schedule, including Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway

NASCAR hopes to run full schedule, including Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
NASCAR wants to reschedule all races postponed by COVID-19 coronavirus concerns, including the Geico 500 originally scheduled for April 26 at Talladega Superspeedway. (Dennis Washington / Alabama NewsCenter)

NASCAR hopes to reschedule all races postponed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, even if that means midweek races and doubleheader weekends.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps (Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images)

NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed questions about safety precautions and scheduling during a teleconference with the sport’s media Tuesday. NASCAR announced Monday that races through at least May 3 will have to be rescheduled, including the GEICO 500 race weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, which was scheduled for April 24-26.

“The health and safety of our fans, industry and the communities in which we race is our most important priority,” Phelps said. “We appreciate the patience of our fans and we look forward to returning to the racetrack.”

Phelps said the plan is to ultimately complete the schedule, even if that means scheduling midweek races, doubleheader weekends and racing during the 2020 Summer Olympics.

“We would like to finish the season at Phoenix and keep the Playoffs portion [of the schedule] intact,” Phelps said. “With that said, it will require a lot of different opportunities for us to look at. We’re in the process of doing that.”

To fill the downtime, several NASCAR drivers, including Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mobile-native Bubba Wallace, along with crew members and enthusiasts, competed Sunday afternoon in an eSports virtual race. Tens of thousands of viewers tuned in, creating enough interest to encourage NASCAR and iRacing to form the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series, an exhibition eSports series featuring many of the sport’s most talented and popular drivers. The simulation-style showcase will include a cross-section of competitors from the NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and a group of NASCAR dignitaries.

“Until we have cars back on track, the entire NASCAR community has aligned to provide our passionate fans with a unique, fun and competitive experience on race day,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s vice president of racing development. “Our longtime partners at iRacing offer an incredible product, and we are excited to see how many of our best drivers will stack up in the virtual domain of competitive racing.”

The multiweek series will kick off Sunday at 12:30 p.m. CT on the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. Drivers expected to participate include Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell. The viewing platforms have not yet been announced, although Phelps said NASCAR is discussing options with its broadcast partners.

“There are discussions we’re having with FOX about what things we can do, discussions with NBC, things that we can put through our own channels that satisfy fans,” Phelps said. “Our fans are obviously thirsty for this content. We want to provide it to them smartly and have interesting content as opposed to just repurposing some of the content that’s already been done. We want to make sure we’re servicing the fans as best we can.”

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