NASCAR: Darlington Post-Race Discussion

With NASCAR making its comeback on Sunday, May 17th, we got a good glimpse of what future races will entail. In this article, I’m going to be going over a couple of things, such as:

  • How did NASCAR do in preventing unnecessary contact, what precautions did they use that we could clearly see?
  • What this race means for the short term future of NASCAR, and whether or not it will continue as it did at Darlington.
  • How was the race itself, and was it worth all the work?

NASCAR prevention of unnecessary contact

It was clear in many ways how NASCAR officials went about preventing any contact that wasn’t required. Many of us could see that the crew members were all wearing some form of a covering or fire-retardant mask, to prevent the spread of germs as much as possible. Also, crew members and drivers stayed in their boxes (as normal) and when not working, sat a good distance away from each other. Something that could also be noticed is the crew chief and the other personnel in the pit-box were sitting as far away as possible inside the box. Teams were only allowed 16 crew members per car, which reduced crowding by quite a bit. 

However, one of the most obvious measures had nothing to do with the crew at all. There were no fans and very limited media presence. This was relatively obvious as the infield was much less crowded than usual, and the stands were completely empty. Race winner Kevin Harvick spoke about the lack of fans in his post-race interview, stating, “Y’know I didn’t think it was gonna be that much different, and then we won the race and it’s dead silent out here.” 

This whole interview with Kevin Harvick really goes to show that the drivers truly miss the fans as much as the fans miss being there. There is a good chance that fans could return to races much later in the season, as states begin to lighten regulations again, which segways us into the next section.

How does this affect NASCAR in the short term

With the race going well this past weekend, and with everyone following regulation, this is a good sign for NASCAR. The benefits that racing sports have over other leagues like the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, etc. is that they do not require much physical contact between personnel and athletes. In football, you have to be in contact with other players, the same as basketball, hockey, and occasionally baseball. This gives NASCAR an enormous advantage and is why it was the first major sport to break the silence and start up again.  

Now like I said before, in the short term, officials plan to keep the races closed to fans and most media. This will likely be the case throughout at least some of the summer, due to state regulations still varying. However as states and even the country come to a consensus on how to open back up and in what proportions it should happen, races could be seeing attendance in certain ways. 

It is very, very unlikely that all fans will be allowed back in at once, however, there is a possibility that they could allow proportionate seating. What I mean by this is that they sell tickets for only so many seats, and have them be every 6th or 7th seat, as to prevent close proximity of fans. Is this a flawless idea? No. Could it work if fans were willing to cooperate, and knew it was for the greater good? Possibly. Provided that fans knew that if they mess this up, we could be back to square one, which could force them to “behave” in a sense, meaning that they won’t break the rules and be close.  

For what it’s worth, I’ve heard nothing but singing praise for what NASCAR has done this weekend with their sport. They’ve safely opened up a source of sports-based entertainment, with little to no risk of exposure to contaminants. This is something that no other sports league can say they’ve done as of yet, and witnessing it is a mix of scary along with being proud of what they accomplished. Races will continue throughout the week with the Xfinity and Gander series, which will give us a better idea of how this will look on a mass scale over a couple of races. For now, NASCAR has done a phenomenal job.

Post-Race Analysis

Finally, we come to the race itself.  We started right on lap 1 with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. driving up the track and spinning himself out into the wall, ending his day. Hendrick Motorsports has 2/4 of their drivers taken out, both of which lead the race for a period of time. Jimmie Johnson led the race for a while, before getting loose out of turn 2 and sliding down into the inner safer barrier on the backstretch, impacting the front of his car and ending his run. 

William Byron, on the other hand, won stage 1, and then, later on, had a rear tire blow out and slapped the wall, scraping the whole right side of his car. He would make it along for about a half lap after the incident before spinning out and causing the caution to finally come out. He was able to come out a few laps later and run the rest of the race, finishing 35th and being several laps down.  

Overall, the race was a clean one by NASCAR standards. There were very few cars involved in wrecks, and when there were incidents it was only 1 car severely damaged. This made the race for the top spots very interesting, as there were quite a few different leaders during the race. Some of which include Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, and obviously Kevin Harvick. By the end of the race, the two remaining Hendrick Motorsports cars left were within the top 5, Alex Bowman finishing 2nd and Chase Elliot finishing 4th after a speeding penalty earlier in the race. Martin Truex Jr. had a solid race, after sitting in the 30s for a large majority of the first stage, he made some adjustments and ended up finishing 6th. Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek both solidified their abilities, placing 7th and 9th respectively. 

Race results: Top 15

P1-Kevin Harvick

P2-Alex Bowman

P3-Kurt Busch

P4-Chase Elliot

P5-Denny Hamlin

P6-Martin Truex Jr.

P7-Tyler Reddick

P8-Erik Jones

P9-John Hunter Nemechek

P10-Matt Kenseth

P11-Austin Dillon

P12-Aric Almirola

P13-Brad Keselowski

P14-Matt DiBenedetto

P15-Ryan Newman

Overall, this race was worth watching, and with most sports being closed at the moment, I fully expect the TV ratings to be exceptionally high for this race. It was great to see some form of sports this weekend and should give hope to the American people that we are coming closer to a resolution. 

How do you feel about the way NASCAR handled the first race back from the Coronavirus outbreak? Leave a comment below.

Drive to the winner’s lane with IroniqMedia for all of your NASCAR coverage here.

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