By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
When the dust settled on NASCAR’s 2020 schedule realignment due to COVID-19 last Thursday, it became apparent that by having multiple races at both Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, certain tracks will pay the unfortunate price.
On Friday, NASCAR announced that three tracks will lose their dates in favor of having additional races at Darlington and Charlotte. Those were Sonoma Raceway, Chicagoland Speedway and Richmond Raceway, with the first two no longer having a race at their venue in 2020. The latter track maintained its second race scheduled for September 12 as its the second Cup playoff race.
NASCAR issued the following statement regarding the decision of moving on without three of its original races:
“Due to the current pandemic, NASCAR has faced several difficult decisions, including realigning race dates from several race tracks. These decisions were made following through 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.”
Chicagoland Speedway, a track that’s been on the calendar since 2001, loses its June 21st date in favor of the sport’s return to racing at Darlington on May 17. For the Xfinity Series, the June 20th date also goes to Darlington which takes place May 19. As for both the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series, a reassignment will be announced at a later date.
“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,” said Chicagoland Speedway President Scott Paddock. “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, May 17.”
The spring Richmond Raceway race was scheduled for April 19, but it too loses its Cup date for Darlington as the second race takes place May 20. On a more positive note, the Truck Series’ April 18th date isn’t canceled as the sport intends on rescheduling the event as 2020 will mark the series return to the 0.75-mile circuit since 2005.
Richmond Raceway President Dennis Bickmeier commented that he’s looking forward of welcoming the sport back in September and optimistic the town will return to its healthy glory soon.
“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,” said Bickmeier. “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.”
For the first time since 1962, there won’t be a West Coast road course on the Cup calendar as Sonoma Raceway, a track the series has visited since 1989, is off the calendar as the crisis has taken a severe hit to the state of California. The June 14th date went to a second visit to 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway, commencing on May 27. Therefore, there will be only two road course races which are Watkins Glen International (August 16) and the Charlotte ROVAL (October 11).
“We work all year for this event, so this is a huge disappointment for us, for our fans and our sponsors, but we realize it’s part of a larger challenge facing our nation and everyone in the live events business,” said Sonoma Raceway President and General Manager Steve Page. “We are excited that NASCAR is coming back to broadcast television and are ready to support the upcoming events at our Speedway Motorsports tracks. We look forward to NASCAR’s return to Sonoma in 2021.”
All ticketholders for those canceled races will receive full refunds and 120% credit towards a future event.
The Cup Series return to racing action for the first time in two months with both races at Darlington commencing March 17 and 19. Both events, along with the Coca-Cola 600 (May 24) and second Charlotte race (May 29) will be one-day events without crowds.