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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

Since announcing its return schedule two weeks ago, NASCAR has also recommended that teams and drivers traveling to the track do not go to the race shop prior to Sunday in order to reduce the chance of infection. For larger teams, this is possible since there are multiple sets of crew members -- some who travel and others who do not. For smaller teams, such as Go Fas Racing, which only employs 17 people, that's a nearly impossible task. Still, no team has been allowed to run cars on the track since the season was postponed, so the first laps will be essentially a test for all teams.

"Big teams are gonna have to cut a lot more," Go Fas general manager Mason St. Hilaire said. "They're really gonna have to figure out who's gonna go. We're probably going to have to leave one, maybe two guys back here for each race."

Last week, St. Hilaire said he was working to determine the team's traveling roster for Darlington, which will include No. 32 driver Corey LaJoie, St. Hilaire and his father, team owner Archie St. Hilaire (on larger teams, St. Hilaire said the "team side" individuals traveling would likely be a "competition guy and IT guy") and six crew members including a spotter.

For every driver and team member, the days leading up to the race at Darlington and the moments rounding the first turn will be a strange, isolated experience. Some drivers are preparing by putting time in on their simulator rigs.

"It's difficult to be able to trust yourself and trust your instincts that you know what you're doing to barrel it off into turn one at the proper speed" Hamlin said. "The good news is now that we know all these guys have got rigs, I guarantee all of them will be on iRacing at some point out there making laps at Darlington just to get re-acclimated."

Like drivers, crew members are doing what they can to prepare virtually. Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Chad Knaus said his team has been holding virtual meetings to discuss race film and notes.

 

"It's not easy, man," Knaus said. He added that his No. 24 team is using its 2019 run at Darlington as a baseline "with a little bit of what we've learned so far (in 2020) in the mix."

"Obviously the new Camaro is a new beast for us," Knaus said. "We had a really good race in Las Vegas. Our teammates had a really good run in Fontana, so we took the data from there, applied those offsets to the best of our ability and what we feel like the characteristics are going to be when we go to Darlington and kind of came up with what it was."

Knaus said he saw his pit crew in person for the first time on Thursday.

"I was in my car while they were doing pit stops and that was it," Knaus said. "So really I haven't been at (the shop). I went there three weeks ago to pick up something for my printer, and other than that, I haven't been there at all."

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