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The COVID-19 crisis could revive NASCAR on television



(Photo by Veilleux79 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Racing returns Sunday in the NASCAR Cup Series from the vaunted Darlington Raceway. This is the first race in 10 weeks following the series shutting down after four races due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kevin Harvick is the points leader despite not having won a race.

NASCAR is still a huge television ratings success with big-money rights packages with Fox Broadcasting and NBC for programming on their primary and sports networks. Ratings have declined, though, and attendance has dwindled. Many speculate the retirement of several marquee stars such as Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., even being and several others as a possible cause. This coupled with ticket price hikes has driven fans away in record numbers.

With sports networks digging deep into their archives for almost two and a half months, the question is, are fans ready for racing and will former fans gravitate back?

Darlington is dubbed “The Track too Tough to Tame,” and the 70-year-old somewhat egg-shaped track lends itself to old school, fender-banging action. NASCAR and track officials have reportedly given the place a complete makeover in preparation for the first of two races this week in the Cup Series along with a Tuesday night Xfinity tilt.

Racing officials have reworked the schedules with mid-week racing along with all races currently scheduled within 10 hour driving distance of Charlotte, North Carolina, where all but a few race teams are based. Officials say they are committed to getting the necessary races in for a 2020 playoff in all three of the sport’s top series.

The big caveat to the resumption is there will be no fans in the stands. Teams are limited to 16 participants including the driver. Owners, most of whom are in the high-risk, over-65 age group, aren’t even being granted attendance.

The next few weeks and the schedule lends itself to some interesting action from many historic southern raceways including Atlanta, Bristol, Charlotte and Talladega. The question is how many will be watching?

NASCAR is on Fox with action getting underway at 2:30 p.m.

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