NASCAR Looking to Return Next Month
As we continue in a holding pattern waiting for the return of live professional sports to the airwaves, there are numerous reports about each league’s potential plans for return. There are optimistic plans, contingency plans and doomsday scenarios as each league looks to find the right balance to try and figure things out. We’ve heard that the PGA Tour plans to come back to action in the month of June and we could see a return of another sport sooner than that if things plan out according to the way that their governing body has laid things out.
NASCAR, which last ran a race back on March 8 with the FanShield 500 at Phoenix Raceway, announced Friday that they had postponed the Blu-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway the weekend of May 8-9. That marked the eighth straight race postponement by NASCAR and was the result that the state of Virginia is under a stay at home order until June at this point in time.
However, all is not lost for fans of stock car racing after that announcement. While the circuit has run only four races on their 36-race schedule through this weekend, there is optimism that there could be turning and burning in the near future. In internal memos circulated by NASCAR to racing teams, the current plan is to have things going again in time for the longest race of the circuit, the Coca-Cola 600. That race, which is normally slated for Memorial Day weekend, is scheduled to take place May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The All-Star race is slated for the week before, also in Charlotte, but it’s unclear if that race will take place or if the circuit will focus on restarting with the
All is not lost for the missing races either if things go according to plan. NASCAR is planning on running races that have been postponed in order to ensure that all 36 races are contested this year. That means that we could see races run during the middle of the week and then a second race on the weekend. Races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Talladega Super Speedway, Dover International Speedway and now Martinsville Speedway have all been postponed, so it will be interesting to see how the geographical double races try to get mixed in.
NASCAR released the following statement when it came to the postponement of the race at Martinsville:
“Our intention remains to run all 36 races with a potential return to racing without fans in attendance in May at a date and location to be determined. We will continue to consult with health experts and local, state and federal officials as we assess future scheduling options.”
The iRacing Series for NASCAR continues to be popular with viewers. Last month, the O’Reilly Auto Parts 125 on Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1 drew more than 1.3 million viewers, which blew past the inaugural race of the series from the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway. That race drew 903,000 viewers, which, at the time, was the highest-watched Esports broadcast in history. It’s drawn eyes from people who hadn’t watched a NASCAR race all season and is keeping interest up despite the lack of actual races.
Both the iRacing Series and the potential return of actual NASCAR races next month are going to draw interest from the betting community. The iRacing Series has started to draw more bets and was added to the list of things to wager on in New Jersey this weekend. By contrast, there was only one other Esports option to bet on legally in the Garden State, with that being the League of Legends World Championship Finals. Right now, any thing that can help the handle of the sportsbooks would be a plus. The handle in New Jersey was just $181.9 million in the month of March, which was a 65 percent drop from the average in the previous six months. Some of that definitely can be attributed to the loss of March Madness but any boost that can replace the missing revenue would be a plus at this point.
Things seem to be moving in the sports world. Let’s hope that things continue to take steps in the right direction so we can get back to talking about what happens in sports instead of guessing when something might take place.