NASCAR's Return Delayed Even Longer as Martinsville Races Postponed

NASCAR announced in mid-March that up to seven races would be postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The earliest expected return to action was the weekend in Martinsville on May 8-9. Now, however, racing fans will be left waiting even longer due to another postponement.

"NASCAR is postponing the scheduled events on May 8-9 at Martinsville Speedway. Our intention remains to run all 36 races, with a potential return to racing without fans in attendance in May at a date and location to be determined," the organization said in a statement. "The health and safety of our competitors, employees, fans and the communities in which we run continues to be our top priority. We will continue to consult with health experts and local, state and federal officials as we assess future scheduling options."

The first races to be postponed were scheduled for early March at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. There was an initial hope among fans and drivers that the action would return in the coming day, but NASCAR further pushed back the remainder of the season. The organization announced five more postponed races at Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega and Dover.

Returning without fans in attendance has been discussed in recent weeks while NASCAR relies on the virtual Pro Racing Invitational to provide racing on Sundays. This digital series utilizing the "iRacing" video game has been a success, but the fans and drivers alike still want the Cup Series to return. There had been four different options reportedly posed prior to Martinsville being postponed.

According to Adam Stern of the Sports Business Journal, the potential options were delays ranging from 8-15 weeks. With eight weeks no longer an option, the next potential restart would be 10 weeks. The drivers would return for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24.

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If a day is specified for a return, there are still some decisions that must be made by NASCAR about the fans and team members. Holding the races with no one in the stands is entirely possible, and the drivers would be able to adhere to social distancing protocol while sitting behind the wheel of their vehicles. The pit crew members, however, would be working in close proximity to each other. Stern reported that the possibility of a "rapid-testing system" was being examined in order to help facilitate the return of racing.

A definitive answer about the return of NASCAR has not been provided, but racing will not return on May 8-9. The organization will continue examining different options for the Cup Series while adhering to recommended state and local guidelines. Whether this brings about the return of racing in the near future remains to be seen.