North Carolina Governor Asked To Allow Racing At Charlotte

Five Republican state senators are asking North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to allow NASCAR races — without fans — next month at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

North Carolina Governor Asked To Allow Racing At Charlotte

Five Republican state senators are asking North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to allow NASCAR races — without fans — next month at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

(Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

In a normal year, NASCAR would run the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte track over Memorial Day weekend.

Like other, sports, though, NASCAR’s schedule has been upended by the coronavirus. NASCAR said Friday it hopes to resume racing at some point in May without fans in the stands.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he hopes NASCAR can race next month at one of the state’s tracks, again without fans.

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA – APRIL 17: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives updates about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic during a press conference on April 17, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The governor announced that starting Saturday, two walk-up testing sites will open in Broward County — one at the Urban League of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale and the other at Mitchell Moore Park in Pompano Beach. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

On Sunday, senators Kathy Harrington, Paul Newton, Todd Johnson, Vickie Sawyer and Carl Ford said allowing a race at Charlotte would require the governor to amend his executive order.

Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said Sunday that “Governor Cooper knows the importance of NASCAR to our state and he’s already been talking with track and team owners about how we could potentially restart racing. It’s too soon to predict specific decisions about future sporting events but any plan would prioritize public health and safety and preventing spread of the virus.”

© 2020 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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NASCAR Faces Big Decision On When To Race

The virtual racing has been cute and kept everyone entertained but NASCAR needs to get back to the real thing, quickly, for the financial and mental health of the sport.

NASCAR Faces Big Decision On When To Race

The virtual racing has been cute and kept everyone entertained but NASCAR needs to get back to the real thing, quickly, for the financial and mental health of the sport.

RICHMOND, VIRGINIA – APRIL 19: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (Editors note: This image was computer generated in-game) Timmy Hill, driver of the #66 Pit Boss Totota, races during the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series Toyota Owners 150at Richmond Raceway on April 19, 2020 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR — really, almost all levels of professional racing — is not built to withstand a shutdown of any sort. Team owners are on their own to figure out how to pay the bills. If someone wants to race, they find whatever sponsorship they can and try to spread it over the longest season in sports at nearly 11 months.

NASCAR does have a 10-year, $8.2 billion television deal with Fox and NBC Sports, but the teams get just 25% of that money and the checks come only after a race is completed.

There hasn’t been a race since March 8.

Eight events have postponed so far because of the coronavirus pandemic.

A lot of sponsors are withholding payments until their logos are again shown at the track.

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – MARCH 13: A general view of the track and pit road at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 13, 2020 in Hampton, Georgia. NASCAR is suspending races due to the ongoing threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Here is the desperate truth: Nobody is making any money right now and the longer NASCAR is shuttered, the deeper the financial hit will be for an industry already battling a slew of challenges.

Every metric worth caring about has been in nearly a decade-long decline. Team owners bought themselves some security three years ago via charters with NASCAR, but they are sold at market rate. The market, FYI, hasn’t been so great.

NASCAR has already made pay cuts and a round of staff layoffs. It’s a privately owned company primarily by Jim France and his niece Lesa France Kennedy. The family last October paid $2 billion to swallow its publicly-owned sister company, International Speedway Corp., in a move NASCAR President Steve Phelps has argued proved the France commitment to the 72-year-old stock car series.

What the Frances do and how they choose to spend their money is of no say to the car owners, who must figure out how long they can keep the lights on at the shop without any income. They can exist on borrowed time or they can fold.

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – MARCH 13: A general view of the garage area at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 13, 2020 in Hampton, Georgia. NASCAR is suspending races due to the ongoing threat of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Some team owners are still paying employees, others have issued pay cuts. And some organizations have gone with layoffs and furloughs.

In the end, no member of the NASCAR industry will not be affected.

Teams, primarily based in the greater Charlotte area, are shuttered under North Carolina’s stay-at-home order and local politicians have recognized the urgency in their financial plights. Five North Carolina Republican senators asked Gov. Roy Cooper to allow NASCAR to hold the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24 without fans.

“Allowing NASCAR to return Memorial Day weekend without fans would not only benefit an industry that calls our state home, it would mark a new beginning for North Carolina’s tourism, entertainment and service industries that are desperate to open for business,” House Speaker Tim Moore said Monday.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 26: A general view of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Even if Moore doesn’t permit the Memorial Day spectacular, NASCAR and its leaders will almost surely find hosts to help it keep its vow to complete its remaining 32 races especially as states begin to relax restrictions.

In fact, the race to be the first track back on the schedule is already on.

Florida and Texas have already said NASCAR is welcome. The series could eventually get to Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee or Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“Texas Motor Speedway will work aggressively with the sanctioning bodies and TV networks to give American society, as well as people around the world, a positive distraction during this crisis,” said Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 03: A general view of the action during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 03, 2019 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

The teams, meanwhile, just wait.

The drivers gamely try to represent sponsors in a weekly virtual iRacing league and it was a record-setting esports smash until Kyle Larson was fired for using a racial slur during a non-NASCAR event. Toss in politics with Fox and NASCAR over rules to make a better television show that came at the expense of lesser-known drivers and people have started to sour.

Virtual racing still works for IndyCar and other series — those teams operate on much smaller budgets — but NASCAR has to be the leader in getting the cars running again. The series simply can’t afford not to make a bold move and throw the green flag to restart its season.

© 2020 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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