NASCAR Pleased With First Post-Shutdown Race, Logistics
NASCAR Exec VP Steve O’Donnell believes things went “very smoothly in NASCAR’s return to racing” yesterday at Darlington Raceway, as there were “no major hiccups,” according to Justin Driggers of the FLORENCE NEWS. O’Donnell said, “Things actually went smoother than we could have expected -- getting all the teams in and inspection went well. All in all, really good day for the sport -- excited to be back. Hopefully the fans enjoyed it on television” (FLORENCE NEWS, 5/18). In Charlotte, Alex Andrejev reports NASCAR officials are planning to meet today “to discuss the safety procedures.” O’Donnell said that NASCAR “did not need to reprimand any of the roughly 900 individuals at the track for not wearing a mask as required.” He added that he was unaware if “anyone had tested positive for the virus while undergoing their pre-race health inspections, which included a questionnaire sent to individuals’ mobile devices and a temperature check before entering the raceway.” However he said the doctor at check-in had “cleared everybody and was 100% confident we were in a good place to go racing” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/18).
SAFETY HAD TO COME FIRST: In Atlanta, Steve Hummer writes yesterday's race had the "feel of the first stirrings from within the sports mainstream." NASCAR was doing "all it could to keep all parties safe and as far away from each other as possible." Hummer: "Being the first back came with considerable pressure to prove that competition and the coronavirus could co-exist. If they failed, it could be a very quiet summer" (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION, 5/18). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler writes the race “served as a symbol that things can still go right.” If it had “gone sideways -- and it could have in any number of ways related to COVID-19 -- it would have been a body blow for the idea of a return to sports in general” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/18).
FIRST STEP: The AP's Jenna Fryer notes the industry "had to be extremely careful because to even get to the Coca-Cola 600 next week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR had to get it right at Darlington" (AP, 5/18). In Cincinnati, Darius Goodwin writes having no fans at the track “gave the broadcast an eerie look.” It made moments “where you see drivers make a move that was spectacular and worked almost sound like crickets.” Goodwin: “What really stood out was the lack of fans around the crews looking to get the views of pitstops up close. That helped remind long-time viewers of the sport to remember we’re not out of the woods yet” (CINCINNATI ENQUIRER, 5/18). NBCSPORTS.com's Dustin Long wrote the lack of fans "was noticeable in the background of TV shots," where the "color of the cars contrasted with the gray of many of the track’s empty seats" (NBCSPORTS.com, 5/17).
NICE JOB, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: In Colorado Springs, Kate Shefte writes the race “looked about as well done as it could have been under the present circumstances.” NASCAR deserves credit “for having pulled off a major sporting event, and credit for figuring it out first” (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 5/18). In Daytona Beach, Ken Willis writes, "This was an easing back into the water" (Daytona Beach NEWS-JOURNAL, 5/18).
IT CAN BE DONE: YAHOO SPORTS' Jay Busbee noted the race "drew the eyes of other major sports looking for a path back to the field." While NASCAR is a "different beast" than stick-and-ball sports, the "simple logistics of getting people into, around and out of an event facility remain the same." Darlington Raceway President Kerry Tharp said, "It can be done. You’ve got to be organized. You’ve got to put in a lot of effort and a lot of time. You’ve got to over communicate to your team. You have to plan for everything. But if you have a solid plan, it can work” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/17).