Darlington race winner Kevin Harvick described his trip to Victory Lane on Sunday with a word that's probably never been previously used to describe the experience.
"Awkward," Harvick said.
"Usually, you get out of the car and the crowd is screaming and yelling. (Sunday) out of the car it was like, well, I don't really know what to do here," the 50-time Cup Series race winner said, adding that he did not know whether to put on a mask for his post-race interview with FOX NASCAR pit reporter, Regan Smith, who stood holding a microphone at a distance while wearing a mask of his own.
"Look, I've been around this deal for a long time," Harvick continued. "This is not like anything I've ever experienced."
Unlike this year's Daytona 500, in which President Donald Trump was in attendance to serve as the grand marshal, it was state health officials rather than Secret Service who patrolled the grounds to ensure event safety as NASCAR held its first race back amid the global coronavirus pandemic.
"I can tell you it's very similar to coming back after 9/11," Harvick said.
But there was still a key difference.
"That day had a hundred thousand fans in the stands. Now you have no fans," he said.
Despite the awkward and isolated moments for those at the track, as well as for those watching from home -- moments that will continue at least through late-June as NASCAR runs its other upcoming events without fans -- the sport's sanctioning body saw the event as a success. None of the roughly 900 individuals on-site were denied entry at the raceway screening area, and NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell said that no one needed to be reprimanded for failing to wear a mask.
"I think the industry really came together and did a tremendous job to enable us to get to the race," O'Donnell said. "I think it just felt a little odd with the garage area because it was so scaled down in terms of personnel. All-in-all, I thought it went really, really well."