On March 16, NASCAR announced that the season would be postponed due to COVID-19 concerns. Seven races would be postponed and potentially canceled, and the earliest return to action would be May 9. Weeks later, however, the organization is examining the possibility of continuing the season without fans in attendance.
According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, NASCAR has been in discussions with track executives about potential options for continuing the season. Specifically, the organization has been discussing the prospect of holding races without fans in attendance. The drivers would be able to maintain social distancing while behind the wheel, but there would be concerns about the pit crew. Stern addressed this and reported that NASCAR may have to develop a "rapid-testing" plan for those allowed in garages and shops.
In addition to potentially holding races without fans in attendance, NASCAR is reportedly examining different schedule options for the remainder of the season. Stern reports that there are currently four different options on the table. The first would be an eight-week delay, which is the current plan. The season would restart in early May at Martinsville.
The next option is a 10-week delay, which was first reported by The Athletic. The season would start with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24. The third option is a 12-week delay. The exact return date was not provided in this scenario, but the season could restart in Texas.
Finally, the fourth option is a 15-week delay. Under this new schedule, the season would go into December. The 2019 Cup Series Championship took place in mid-November, but the fourth potential schedule would push the season far beyond that date.
The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in several sports being postponed with no clear return date. It's unknown if NASCAR could resume the season in the coming weeks, but the organization is planning for that potential option. Having competitors that don't touch each other is one aspect that could make this return more realistic.
For now, however, NASCAR will forge ahead with the Pro Invitational Series. This online-only competition has been a success in recent weeks. Fans have been enjoying the "iRacing" action, resulting in more than one million viewers. The drivers have been similarly entertained by the ability to interact with their fans during the race and eat snacks.
The digital racing series will continue for the foreseeable future and will feature a growing number of fans and celebrity guests. This isn't the same as actual racing, but there are many that feel it has filled the void left by the suspended season. These fans will continue to watch while NASCAR examines all possibilities for bringing the season back in the near future.