In mid-March, NASCAR was one of the last sports to shut down in response to the coronavirus pandemic. This weekend, it will be among the first to return with the running of the NASCAR Cup Series at Darlington Raceway on Sunday.
The return of racing means at least one more sport of interest to Tennesseans should be in action when sports betting finally launches in the Volunteer State, perhaps by late summer.
NASCAR to return with precautions, modified rules, and empty racetracks
NASCAR is packing seven races into a week-and-a-half. The action starts with three at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina. That includes two Cup Series races with an Xfinity Series race sandwiched in between.
The action will then move across the state line to North Carolina. Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts four consecutive days of racing next week, including two more Cup Series races, another Xfinity Series race, and one Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race.
Let’s go racing. pic.twitter.com/YNl2X0LhnK
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) April 30, 2020
There will be no fans in attendance at either racetrack. Each event will be one-day only. The only race that requires racers to qualify is Coca-Cola 600 race, aka the Charlotte 600. It’s scheduled for Sunday, May 24.
Other precautions outlined by NASCAR include:
- Mandatory use of protective equipment by drivers and their crews.
- Health screenings for all who enter the facilities as well as when they are inside and when they depart.
- The following of social distancing protocols.
- Limits on the number of individuals allowed in the facility.
NASCAR has also announced several “modified competition caution” procedures, including those designed to accommodate longer pit stops and extra in-race adjustments in order to make up for the lack of practice time.
The announcement of future races and schedule adjustments will be forthcoming from NASCAR.
TN sports bettors will at least have NASCAR, UFC, PGA at launch
Following the legalization of online-only sports betting in Tennessee in May 2019, the Tennessee Lottery Board of Directors finalized sports betting regulations one month ago. Since then, the application process for obtaining a sports betting license is now open. So far, there is no word on if any groups have turned in the required paperwork.
The board indicated the possibility the first TN sportsbooks could be open for business as early as July, given that regulators are required to review each application within 90 days.
Of course, just what sports will be available to bet upon remains up in the air as professional leagues continue to discuss various plans for returning.
The UFC returned last weekend, staging UFC 249 in Jacksonville, FL, without fans in attendance. Pay per view numbers for the event were impressive with more than 700,000 buys on ESPN+, per Sports Business Journal.
The preliminary bouts broadcast on ESPN also drew a large audience of fans yearning for live sports. According to Nielsen ratings, the four-hour broadcast averaged just over 1.15 million viewers and a little more than 1.46 million during the 8-10 p.m. block. That was good enough to finish second in cable ratings on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, the PGA has announced plans to resume its season June 11-14 with the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, TX. It will also play out without fans in attendance.