With NASCAR preparing for a gauntlet of races to restart its season, three events will no longer be on the Cup Series calendar, while two tracks will have to wait another year to see Cup action. On Friday, NASCAR announced Richmond Raceway, Sonoma Raceway, and Chicagoland Speedway will lose their spring and summer dates to make room for late-May dates at Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. Efforts to reschedule the dates have failed.
“Due to the current pandemic, NASCAR has faced several difficult decisions, including realigning race dates from several race tracks,” read a statement from the sanctioning body. “These decisions were made following thorough collaboration with local and state government officials from across the country, including the areas of the affected race tracks. We thank all our fans for their support, and we look forward to our return to racing.”
Richmond’s Toyota Owners 400 weekend had initially been scheduled for 19 April before it was one of many that was indefinitely postponed in mid-March due to COVID-19. The short track has another date scheduled for 12 September as the second race of the Cup playoffs’ Round of 16, and it can be assumed the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series‘ race planned for the spring would be moved to there. The Truck Series has not raced at Richmond since 2005.
Richmond and fellow Virginia short track Martinsville Speedway both had spring dates before their postponement. The races were eventually jeopardised by stay-at-home orders from the state government, and although plans to relax them have been raised, it would be too difficult to squeeze Richmond’s first date back onto the schedule.
“As a sport, we continue to be united in the best interests of the safety and well-being of our fans, competitors, stakeholders, and track personnel,” track president Dennis Bickmeier said. “There will be brighter and healthier days ahead in the greater Richmond region when NASCAR returns to Richmond Raceway for the NASCAR Playoff Race Weekend on Sept. 11-12. We look forward to NASCAR’s best getting back on the track at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 17 as we launch a new countdown to the return of racing in RVA this fall.”
Sonoma had its Toyota/Save Mart 350 planned for 14 June, but the lockdown in California to contain the pandemic have effectively made it impossible for the race to be run on time. California is working together with other West Coast states to manage the situation, meaning large gatherings have been placed on hold. A similar concern lingers in neighboring Oregon, whose IndyCar Series‘ Grand Prix of Portland is in jeopardy after such gatherings were barred through the end of September.
The raceway is one of three road courses on the Cup schedule. With the cancellation leaving just two such layouts on the calendar, some have expressed hope that the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval—which hosts a playoff race in October—would also be used for the replacement Charlotte date on 27 May. However, due to social distancing and other factors, teams have not been able to work on their road course cars to make such an event happen.
“We have been working closely with NASCAR and local/state officials since the beginning of the pandemic to find a workable solution, but we were unable to find an alternative date given the demands of the NASCAR schedule and the ongoing uncertainty around large events in California,” Sonoma Raceway president Steve Page stated. “Our event will be transferred to Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 27. We look forward to hosting NASCAR again in 2021.
“This is clearly a very challenging time for the world at large, our communities, and each of you, and we couldn’t be more disappointed not to host a NASCAR event this year. However, the health, safety and enjoyment of our NASCAR fans will always be our first priority, and we cannot wait to have you back at the track again when the time is right.”
Scheduled for the week after Sonoma, Chicagoland’s Camping World 400 has also fallen victim. Like California, Illinois has been faced with restrictions in their hopes of stopping the coronavirus.
In his speedway’s statement, Chicagoland president Scott Paddock commented, “The difficult decision to realign our race events was a combination of where we fell on the schedule, proximity to NASCAR’s teams and the safety and well-being of our community and larger NASCAR industry. We will miss the roar of the engines at Chicagoland Speedway this season, but we will be rooting for and supporting our NASCAR colleagues at Darlington Raceway as competition returns on Sunday.”
The NASCAR season is set to resume at Darlington on 17 May. Seven races across the three national series will be held over the next eleven days.