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NASCAR drivers will be racing for the first time since March 8: 'It's going to be odd'

Alex Andrejev, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Auto Racing

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Erik Jones tried to imagine what the moments leading up to the green flag at Darlington would be like.

"It's going to be different," said Jones, who drives the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing. "I mean, that's the easiest way to put it."

Jones described how he typically prepares on race day; He wakes up, does his mid-morning media appearances, attends a drivers meeting, eats lunch, then takes 20 minutes or so to relax before heading into a crowded arena for an afternoon race.

This Sunday, Jones will alter his routine to align with the event protocols NASCAR has put in place in order to resume its season amid the coronavirus pandemic. There will be no fans in attendance and no qualifying session on Sunday -- drivers will touch the track for the first time since March 8.

"That's going to be really unique," Jones said. "Walking out to the grid and just hopping in the car."

Jones, like all other drivers, has been instructed to drive to the track separated from his team and to remain in his motorhome until it's time to race in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

 

"What I envision most likely will happen is NASCAR will have us all on a mass text," No. 11 driver Denny Hamlin said on Sunday. "They'll probably give us a text saying, 'Drivers to your cars.' The same way they communicate when they tell us we have a rain delay."

"I think it's going to be easier because there is nothing to sidetrack us on race day," Hamlin continued. "It's literally just going to race and race only. We don't need all those extra people around like we normally would."

NASCAR has issued COVID-19 event protocol guidelines to teams, including mandating the use of personal protective equipment, practicing social distancing, logging interactions between team members at the track, monitoring individual health conditions and abiding by the roster limitations (team rosters are capped at 16 people). In a rules bulletin issued last week, NASCAR announced that teams in the Cup Series could be fined as much as $50,000 for violating those guidelines.

"We're the organization that puts cars on the track four days a week at 200 miles an hour," NASCAR vice president of racing operations John Bobo said. "We think it's that same discipline and eye towards safety that everybody in our industry has that is going to help us execute on this."

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