NASCAR teams are now able to get back to work. On Thursday afternoon, North Carolina governor Roy Cooper outlined his plans for reopening the state over time. Among the details listed was his intention to list NASCAR as an “essential business”, allowing team employees to return to work provided they maintain social distancing and follow local orders.
As part of Executive Order #135, citizens are to continue remaining indoors, though the original end date of 29 April was extended to 8 May. North Carolina has been in a state of emergency since early March in its efforts to stop COVID-19’s spread.
Although it might seem unusual for motorsport to fall under the essential business label, the decision comes with the hope of revitalising the economy and preserving employees’ jobs. Many teams have been forced to temporarily shutter operations as sponsorship support begins to run thin, with smaller organisations like family-owned teams in particular bracing for an especially hard financial hit.
“From the information that I have now, already under our state executive order, they can begin working in their garages as an essential business as defined under our executive order,” Cooper said, according to NBC Sports‘ Nate Ryan. “(NASCAR teams) are still in contact with local health departments. Local governments may have some different health restrictions.”
After numerous postponements, the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is currently the first date back on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule, planned for 24 May. However, as cases continue to mount, skepticism as to whether the race would be run on that date remains. North Carolina State Senators have called for Cooper to allow the 600 to be run with no fans.
The governor explained steps will be taken to ensure fan and crew safety, including possibly holding spectator-less races and conducting dialogues with NASCAR officials. The idea of races behind closed doors was approved by Texas governor Greg Abbott on Monday, while Florida governor Ron DeSantis has also voiced his support for similar strategies.
“We’re also reviewing the proposals put forth regarding the Coca-Cola 600 and how it would be run at CMS without fans and decisions will be made on that very soon,” Cooper added.”
In the meantime, Darlington Raceway, which hosts the Southern 500 in September, has reportedly expressed interest in holding a second race in the spring or early summer to help the sport get back on track. NASCAR intends to run all 36 races.