Its first race in more than two months will be kicked off at Darlington Raceway on May 17. But the race will be held without fans in attendance, because of the need for social distancing, NASCAR said.
Races will also be held at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway throughout the 11-day span.
NASCAR, like the majority of the sports world, has been on pause since mid-March due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic. South Carolina has relaxed coronavirus restrictions and Charlotte, N.C., is following suit. NASCAR had only completed four of its 36 scheduled races when it suspended activities on March 13.
“NASCAR and its teams are eager and excited to return to racing, and have great respect for the responsibility that comes with a return to competition,” Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said in a statement.
O’Donnell said NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of its competitors, officials, and those in the local community.
“We thank local, state, and federal officials and medical experts, as well as everyone in the industry, for the unprecedented support in our return to racing, and we look forward to joining our passionate fans in watching cars return to the track,” he added.
The company has coordinated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health officials to ensure that the upcoming races will be “strictly tailored, in every way, to follow specific guidelines” set by the CDC.
There will be no practice for each race, NASCAR said, and only the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for May 24 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway will have qualifying. Each race will be a one-day event, it added.
Further dates have not been announced, but the racing governing body has said it plans to schedule a 36-race season this year.
“I’m excited to get back racing. Safety is obviously the most important thing & I know NASCAR has been working to ensure that we have the necessary safety precautions in place,” seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson tweeted Thursday.
Johnson said that while it’s “unfortunate” that fans won’t be able to attend, he recognizes “it’s obviously necessary at this time.”
It will be mandatory to wear face masks at the track, and team motor coaches and garages will be more spread out than usual.
A contract tracing system for the CCP virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus, will also be put in place in case anyone is diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Individuals will be screened before entering the facility, and social distancing protocols will be maintained throughout the event, NASCAR said.
Former champion Brad Keselowski praised NASCAR for working hard “to make racing happen again.”
“Things will look different when we return but the changes are necessary for the safety of everyone who makes our races successful, especially our fans,” he said on Twitter. “We’ll be missing the fans, but we’ve got some of the best in sports and their energy will still be felt when we strap back in. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.”
Reuters contributed to this report.