NASCAR confirmed on Tuesday that stock car racing will officially return, starting on May 17. There will be seven races held over the course of 11 days, starting at Darlington Raceway. However, this altered schedule brings with it the news that three races have been effectively canceled.
The governing body announced on Friday that the SaveMart 350 has been removed from the schedule. The race was scheduled to take place on June 14 at Sonoma Raceway in California. Additionally, the Richmond Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway both lost races as part of the new schedule. The previously-scheduled race at Sonoma will now take place at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The races at Richmond and Chicagoland will be held at Darlington.
"Due to the current pandemic, NASCAR has faced several difficult decisions, including realigning race dates from several race tracks," NASCAR said in a statement. "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." NASCAR also confirmed that further adjustments to the 2020 schedule will be announced: "in the near future."
Officials for Sonoma Raceway had been working with NASCAR to find a later date that the race could be held. This no longer became possible due to the uncertainty around large events in California. Instead, the decision was made to move the race to Charlotte on May 27.
"We work all year for this event, so this is a huge disappointment for us, for our fans and our sponsors, but we realize it's part of a larger challenge facing our nation and everyone in the live events business," Sonoma Raceway president and general manager Steve Page said in a statement. "We are excited that NASCAR is coming back to broadcast television and are ready to support the upcoming events at our Speedway Motorsports tracks. We look forward to NASCAR's return to Sonoma in 2021."
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced NASCAR to make some major changes in order to facilitate a return to racing. The events will be held within proximity to Charlotte, where most of the teams are based. This will be done in order to prevent time spent in hotels or in the local communities. The teams will also have a limited number of members on hand for each event, and they will all be required to wear personal protective masks.
NASCAR currently has only announced the schedule running through the end of May. Further alterations will be announced in the near future, many of which will depend on the coronavirus. For now, the governing body and its teams will simply plan for upcoming events at Darlington and Charlotte.