The NASCAR Cup Series‘ return date grows more distant with each announcement. On Friday, NASCAR announced the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway has been postponed to an undetermined date. The race weekend, originally scheduled for 8–9 May, had been planned to be the first weekend back after a long hiatus.
“We want to thank all of our dedicated fans who were set to join us during our May race weekend and our first NASCAR Cup Series race under the lights,” track president Clay Campbell stated. “The well-being and safety of our patrons, NASCAR stakeholders, employees and our community continues to be our number one priority. We appreciate your patience and understanding during these challenging times and we look forward to having everyone back in the near future to help us make history once again at Martinsville Speedway.”
When the season was put on hold in mid-March, NASCAR hoped the Martinsville weekend, which was set to be the inaugural Cup night race at the short track, would be the first race back. However, this was jeopardised when the state of Virginia issued a stay-at-home order later in the month. NASCAR acknowledged the ruling but did not make any announcement until Friday as officials reassessed the situation.
The COVID-19 pandemic had already wiped seven races off their originally-scheduled dates from Atlanta Motor Speedway to Dover International Speedway. However, NASCAR has emphasised its goal to run the full Cup schedule, with ideas like doubleheaders and midweek races being considered. Before the postponement, NASCAR had also entertained racing without fans, a plan that still remains a possibility.
“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,” read a NASCAR 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 Coca-Cola 600, scheduled for 24 May, is now the next Cup race on the calendar, along with its All-Star Race weekend the previous week. However, it is difficult to say if Charlotte Motor Speedway will indeed run the race. The 600’s race day is traditionally joined by Formula One‘s Monaco Grand Prix and the IndyCar Series‘ Indianapolis 500, both of which have been cancelled and postponed, respectively.