Well race fans, a lot has been happening in NASCAR recently. Even though iRacing isn’t “real” racing, the consequences of your actions are very real.
Bubba Wallace lost a sponsor after dropping out of an iRace. Kyle Larson lost his ride entirely after uttering a racial slur during an iRace. Larson has completed his mandated sensitivity training but remains suspended by NASCAR. He will compete in an upcoming World of Outlaws race, where he owns a team, but there has been no word on when his NASCAR suspension will end. But as every door closes, a window opens as it did for retired veteran Matt Kenseth who will replace Larson at Ganassi Racing when the season restarts on May 17th.
Just to remind everyone, we were 4 races into the season when everything came to a screeching halt. The season will restart at Darlington and Charlotte since those are both states where the governors have allowed racing to begin again without fans. NASCAR will have some big decisions to make in the coming weeks about how to progress beyond these two tracks. There have been many conversations about this with NASCAR sponsor partners and will most likely be announced in the next couple of weeks. In any case, expect to see racing without fans for some time to come.
In addition to Kenseth, you can expect to see Ryan Newman return to the track for the first time since his spectacular crash. Both drivers are eligible for the post-season as well, if there is a post-season. Their paths to the post-season are different and difficult, but we have seen stranger things happen.
I welcome the return of NASCAR as it is one of the few major sports that doesn’t really change without 60,000 screaming fans in attendance. You certainly don’t need to pump in crowd noise either. If the teams take precautions, the season can be run without fans and without illness. Lax controls though could expose teams to illness and either cause another shut down or the elimination of a team that doesn’t abide by the rules. How Victory Lane will be run is going to be interesting as well since it is the only time that a large group of people get together during the race. I think we can expect to see significant changes there too.
Lastly, the sport doesn’t need to take a political stand on this virus either. Listening to scientists, doctors and the local governing bodies is all they need to do. Perhaps NASCAR can help lead the way back to recovery by staying above the fray and giving us all something to root for.