The NASCAR Cup Series season might be in limbo due to COVID-19, but Texas Motor Speedway is keen on taking a few steps toward getting it back underway. With the blessing of Texas governor Greg Abbott, the track is preparing for a potential race without spectators in attendance. Furthermore, track president Eddie Gossage has not ruled out a potential NASCAR doubleheader with the IndyCar Series in June.
“Just spoke to @NASCAR leaders,” Abbott tweeted. “They’re working to return to Texas at Texas Motor Speedway very soon. I hope to announce the exciting details in the near future. To prevent spread of #COVID19 it will be without fans. But they will put on a great show for TV.”
The O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 weekend had been removed from its originally-scheduled date of 27–29 March due to the pandemic. Despite initial commitment to the date in the wake of state and local emergency orders, the weekend was one of many postponed by NASCAR with a return date yet to be finalised.
The idea of spectator-less races was previously considered by NASCAR for its Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 and Dixie Vodka 400 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, the concept was never executed due to the postponements.
“Texas Governor Greg Abbott has given NASCAR the green flag to race, and our sport is eager to get back on track,” Gossage said in a track statement. “Texas Motor Speedway will work aggressively with the sanctioning bodies and TV networks to give American society, as well as people around the world, a positive distraction during this crisis. A non-spectator event is not perfect because in our sport, the fans come first. But circumstances are such that this is a novel answer for the return of the sport for now. We are now working on a hard date.
“Our sport is unique because the competitors are inside the race cars with no body-to-body contact like most other sports. That is a distinct advantage over other sports and why you will likely see auto racing as the first live sport returning to action. We appreciate the Governor’s support for the return of racing at Texas Motor Speedway very soon. He’s been to the races here before and has been an admirable leader throughout this crisis.”
A date has not been revealed, though Gossage has raised the possibility of moving the NASCAR weekend to June to join it with IndyCar’s Genesys 600. Currently scheduled for 6 June, the race is set to be the IndyCar season opener after many of the earlier rounds were postponed. IndyCar CEO Mark Miles remarked in early April that he would be “delighted” at a Cup/IndyCar doubleheader at the Fort Worth track.
The pandemic has also forced the Cup Series and IndyCar into a doubleheader at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in early July.