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GENTLEMEN, RE-START YOUR ENGINES: NASCAR confirms Cup Series events in May

Talladega teaser

Tight racing through the tri-oval during the 1000Bulbs.com 500 Sunday, Oct. 13, 2019, at Talladega Superspeedway in Eastaboga, AL. (Bob Crisp/The Daily Home)

NASCAR confirmed today its season will restart May 17 with a race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

NASCAR released the following schedule:

—May 17, Darlington, Cup Series, 400 miles, FOX, 2:30 p.m.

—May 19, Darlington, Xfinity, 200 miles, FS1, 7 p.m.

—May 20, Darlington, Cup Series, 500 kilometers, FS1, 6:30 p.m.

—May 24, Charlotte, Cup Series, 600 miles, FOX, 5 p.m.

—May 25, Charlotte, Xfinity, 300 miles, FS1, 6:30 p.m.

—May 26, Charlotte, Gander Trucks, 200 miles, FS1, 7 p.m.

—May 27, Charlotte, Cup Series, 500 kilometers, FS1, 7 p.m.

Each of those events will run without fans in attendance, according to a NASCAR news release, but there will be live pit stops. Also, there are no changes at this time to the playoff schedule, format or structure — Talladega Superspeedway has the Alabama 500 playoff race scheduled for Oct. 4.

“NASCAR and its teams are eager and excited to return to racing, and have great respect for the responsibility that comes with a return to competition,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “NASCAR will return in an environment that will ensure the safety of our competitors, officials and all those in the local community. We thank local, state and federal officials and medical experts, as well as everyone in the industry, for the unprecedented support in our return to racing, and we look forward to joining our passionate fans in watching cars return to the track.”

The revised May schedule gives Darlington and Charlotte an extra race. O'Donnell said in a teleconference with reporters today that NASCAR is starting with those two tracks because they're as close to the Cup teams' shops as possible, and teams can drive to the track and back home in one day, without needing to stay overnight.

With these two tracks getting an extra race apiece, this means not every track on the original 2020 Cup schedule will get to host a Cup race this year. He said he isn't ready to say which tracks will not host a race.

He added that teams will be told before the May 17 Darlington race and that a public announcement from NASCAR will come "in the coming weeks."

NASCAR's release and teleconference included information to keep in mind:

—One-day shows with no practice sessions.

—Of the races announced today, only the Cup Series race at Charlotte will have qualifying. O'Donnell said NASCAR is not ready to announce how starting lineups or pit locations will be determined.

—O'Donnell said that the total team roster for a race will be 16 people. That includes driver, owner, hauler driver and pit crew.

—Personal protective equipment is required throughout the event, but health screenings will be conducted for all individuals before entering the facility, while inside the facility and exiting the facility. John Bobo, vice president of operations for NASCAR, said the organization will not be testing crews or drivers. Bobo said tests are in short supply and results can take two or three days. Bobo added, "Those tests should be targeted for those in need."

As for Talladega's spring race, there's no word yet. Asked if NASCAR has given potential dates to Talladega Superspeedway, the track's vice president of consumer marketing and communications, Russell Branham, replied, "No, sir."

Talladega Superspeedway regularly hosts two of the 36 Cup Series races each year, with one in the spring and one in the fall.

The Cup Series had completed four races before the season was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic. NASCAR has not released a revised schedule, but the organization's stance has been that it wants to complete the full season.

"It's going to be different without fans for sure, obviously," Cup driver Alex Bowman said Sunday after winning the GEICO 70, a virtual-reality race from a simulated Talladega Superspeedway. "The fans are why we get to do what we get to do. It's unfortunate that we're not going to be able to have fans there, but at least we'll be able to put on a show for everybody at home watching. Hopefully, we get to go do that soon. That would be great."

Today's NASCAR news release did not address non-competitive pit stops, in which everyone would pit at the same time under a caution flag. In that case, a smaller pit crew would be needed, such as only one or two crew members to change tires.

Also, with a schedule of having two Cup Series races in a week, that would mean little or no practice time on the track.

"We've raced without practice a couple times just because of rain and things like that, so that's obviously different," Bowman said. "But ... if we were to not have competitive pit stops, that would be pretty strange, as well. So it's just adapting to all that and trying to stay on top of it and be prepared the best we can be for all of that is really all I can do."

Sports Editor Mark Edwards: 256-235-3570. On Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.

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