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Will every NASCAR team return to the grid?

HOMESTEAD, FLORIDA – NOVEMBER 17: Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Speedway on November 17, 2019 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

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You don’t need us to tell you the obvious. There’s no NASCAR racing happening right now, and there may not be any NASCAR racing happening for quite some time. The sport has done its best to cope with the situation the world is facing in the shape of COVID-19, but ultimately it’s proven to be impossible to find a way forward. At one point, it looked like approval was likely to be granted for races to go ahead in front of audiences of no more than fifty people. When that suggestion was shot down, organizers began to wonder if they’d be allowed to go ahead with audiences of no more than ten. Now, the sport has bowed to the inevitable. There will be no NASCAR until May at the earliest. Depending on who you listen to, May could easily turn into June or July. Perhaps it will be even longer.


As disappointing as the news is, it’s also the right call. Nothing is more important than the health of the drivers, the pit crews, and the people who come to watch races live. If lives are at risk, protecting those lives is always the right thing to do. In some ways, we’re pleased that the decision was taken not to go ahead with racing in front of small audiences. Even though the focus of television viewers is mostly on the track, fans are part of what makes racing great. There would be something a little less special about seeing the cars speed around the track in front of nobody, with no cheers and no excitement. Watching a winning driver get out of their car and celebrate in front of an empty stand would feel eerie, and it would take something away from the driver’s achievement. It might be better to have no NASCAR at all for a while rather than NASCAR-lite, which is effectively what the earlier continuity plans proposed.


NASCAR isn’t the only motorsport affected by this situation. Formula 1 is currently suspended as well, and unlike NASCAR -which insists that the full season will be completed as soon as the business of racing can be resumed – there’s no clear idea from Formula 1 as to what might happen next. It might even be the case that their whole season is called off, and they try again next year. That’s not on the table for NASCAR at the moment, and hopefully, things will remain that way. In the meantime, we’ll all shortly be treated to the unusual sight of F1 and NASCAR drivers racing against each other in a series of e-sports tournaments scheduled to run between now and the first week of May. The first-ever official eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series has already begun, and well-known names including Dale Earnhardt Jr, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, and several more are scheduled to take part in virtual races in the near future. We could see F1 drivers driving virtual NASCAR tracks, and NASCAR drivers testing their skills on virtual F1 tracks. It’s by no means a replacement for the races we’re currently missing out on, but it’s better than nothing.


Away from the frivolity of professional drivers playing video games and the bullishness from the sport’s leading figures about getting things back to normal as quickly as possible, though, there’s a serious question to be asked about team finances. Nobody knows how long this shutdown will last for. The biggest teams will have the financial means to survive this period of downtime, but it would be a stretch to say that the smaller teams aren’t just a little bit concerned. They’re being asked to go without income, and yet they have staff to pay, and business overheads to cover in the meantime. To the big boys, this period of heavy outgoings with little income will be an irritation. To the teams who don’t have the kind of financial resources that the larger players do, it could be a death sentence.


Every single NASCAR race costs money and makes money. You can only stay afloat if the money you make is more than the money you pay out in costs. Paying drivers is expensive. Developing and maintaining cars is expensive. Getting to race days costs money. All of that money has to come from somewhere, and in the case of some of the smaller teams, a lot of that money is borrowed. They spend their money on the assumption that they’ll make it all back in race fees and sponsorship. It’s like visiting an online slots website, placing your bet, and hoping that you’ll win every time you spin. There is, in fact, a NASCAR-themed racing slots called ‘Nascash’ that more-or-less simulates that exact experience. Gambling is gambling, though, and everyone who’s ever won big playing online slots will also be able to tell you about a time when they went on a losing streak and came away out of pocket. They at least have the chance to walk away from the table. You can shut down an online slots website when you’re out of money to play the games with. The equivalent of doing that with the real sport is shutting down the whole team – and nobody wants to see that.


There are a few things that the smaller teams can do to mitigate their expenses over the next few weeks or months. They can effectively shutter the team, send the staff home, and stop paying for anything that isn’t essential between now and the day they get the green light to come back. That’s far from ideal for their staff, though, and it’s also far from ideal for their race preparation. The big teams will be working on their cars and making sure their drivers stay sharp by using simulators. If the smaller teams don’t have that option because of their financial limitations, the gap between the top and the bottom of the grid is likely to be even larger on that first race back than it was before everything went on hold.


NASCAR will be back. We all know in our hearts that the world will eventually beat COVID-19, and regular day-to-day life will eventually resume. Motorsport is included in that. The biggest names and the most celebrated drivers and teams will all be there on the track for that first race like they never went away. We just hope for the sake of the sport that the smaller teams find a way to hang in there so they can join them.

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Posted by on March 21, 2020. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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