What can we expect from NASCAR's return?
When NASCAR resumes its season at Darlington on Sunday, May 17, a two-month stretch without racing will finally come to an end. But the proposed schedule for the rest of the month is anything but normal. We’ll detail NASCAR’s comeback below, and will determine if any drivers have a significant edge.
NASCAR's new schedule is fast and furious
There will be four races held over a 10-day span from May 17 to May 27, with a Sunday afternoon heat at "The Lady in Black" followed by another Cup Series race at Darlington on a Wednesday evening (May 20). Four days later, the drivers will be back in action for the always-demanding Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR’s traditional night-before-Memorial-Day feature. That will be followed by another Wednesday night showdown at Charlotte. It’s been nearly 50 years since NASCAR ran a similar schedule, back when the Cup Series comprised 48 races in 1971.
The new NASCAR schedule:— X ÆLIJA-12H (@ElijahWhosoever) April 30, 2020
Sun, May 17: Cup Darlington
Tues, May 19: XFINITY Darlington
Wed, May 20: Cup Darlington
Sun, May 24: Cup Charlotte
Mon, May 25: XFINITY Charlotte
Tues, May 26: Trucks Charlotte
Weds, May 27: Cup Charlotte
Folks, this feels like.... pic.twitter.com/tT2W7G56O9
Drivers won't have the benefit of practice laps at Darlington
Adding another layer of intrigue, and difficulty, is the fact that NASCAR is not allowing any practice laps or qualifying for at least the first race back, which is being held at a Darlington course nicknamed "The Track Too Tough To Tame."
"It’s going to be difficult," Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron said of the situation. "I think the biggest thing is just trying to prepare yourself well physically. Obviously you’re not going to get that chance to really go through practice and kind of warm up your muscles, I guess you could say, to get ready in the car."
Byron also observed that Sunday afternoon’s race at Darlington will present a unique challenge, since most drivers are only used to racing there at night, for the traditional Southern 500 on the evening before Labor Day.
"With it being a daytime race, it’s going to be different as well," he said. "A lot of different variables there. The biggest thing is just being prepared."
Odds to win the NASCAR Cup Series Championship
|Driver||NASCAR Cup Series Championship Odds|
Martin Truex Jr.
Joe Gibbs, Penske, and Stewart-Haas have a clear advantage
The lack of practice, and being able to fine-tune a vehicle before raceday, will almost surely play to the advantage of the elite teams, like Joe Gibbs, Penske, and Stewart-Haas, and the veteran drivers, like Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick. Not surprisingly, those three drivers comprise three of the top four betting choices for May 17’s event, with Kyle Busch holding favoritism at +500. He has a prior win at Darlington and no active driver has led more laps here (716), so the defending series champ looks like a solid wager.