(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

1 Burning Question: Call It Off Now

1? Where’s the other three questions?

There’s nothing I would like more than to write about what is currently scheduled to happen at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend.

Chase Elliott returning home to take on Kyle Busch for a $100,000 bounty? Gushing about the history about one of NASCAR’s original four speedways? Joking about the latest in the Angela Ruch saga? Previewing one of the best mile-and-a-half surfaces in all of NASCAR? That would all be awesome to do.

Sadly, it has become clear in recent days that writing about all of that would be extremely inappropriate without addressing the elephant in the room.

COVID-19 is no laughing matter. It’s not the flu. It’s not a cold. It’s something far more serious.

This is a bug where victims may infect other victims without even showing symptoms. It has a much larger death rate than either the flu or the common cold, but more importantly it has a much larger hospitalization rate. Our health system would collapse completely if the storms of Italy were to cross the Atlantic at the speed they are threatening to do.

America is not testing enough people. Hundreds to thousands of more people in this country may be infected and spreading this without even being aware that they have it. We have so few tests compared to every other country. It’s time to stop playing around with this.

The NBA announced that its season has been postponed. The NHL will be postponing their season. March Madness, one of the biggest sporting events every year, is canceled. Even opening day in baseball, one of the grandest traditions in our country, has been delayed by a couple of weeks, with spring league canceled outright.

Schools are shutting down. People have been told to work from home. Large-scale gatherings of more than 250 people have been banned in my own state, and more almost every few hours. Most of this country, and the world at large, have begun to wake up.

Then there is NASCAR and IndyCar.

NASCAR began its response on Wednesday by announcing media restrictions and rules for this weekend at Atlanta. Then, um, that 30-minute block on Wednesday night happened when President Donald Trump banned European travel, the NBA postponed the season and beloved actor Tom Hanks announced that he had contracted the virus.

Nothing was announced on Thursday morning from NASCAR. Then, Miami-Dade County’s mayor announced that no fans would be allowed to attend next week’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Then IMSA did the obvious thing and postponed next week’s 12 Hours of Sebring, because they really couldn’t have held it without Europeans.

NASCAR announced it would make an announcement at 1 p.m. EST. Then it became 1:15. Then 1:30. No announcement.

Then NASCAR finally announced, after news had came out in that time frame about so many other sports and colleges cancelling events… that Atlanta and Homestead would not be open to the public. 20 hours after the NCAA announced they would not have fans in arenas during March Madness, and a few hours before the tournament was canceled entirely.

I understand that it is an extremely tough decision. There are friends in the garage area that I know who would be lost monetarily without the races running this weekend even though that the cancellation of March Madness is going to effect way more jobs and lives than the cancellation of NASCAR/IndyCar. And NASCAR itself would be missing out on a lot of television money and the exposure of being the only major sport on television this weekend.

But there’s one little problem with NASCAR’s plan, and it involves the fact that there are still hundreds of people in each series’ garage. In sports like basketball, you really don’t need that many people, because not every team in the league is there. With NASCAR, every team and every crew member are there in one garage.

Let Clint Bowyer’s spotter Brett Griffin accidentally stumble his way into explaining the problem with all of this.

Allow me to reiterate: this is a virus that can spread before symptoms are shown. Simply deciding that you’re too sick to go to the garage this weekend isn’t enough to potentially stop an outbreak. And while NASCAR deserves at least some credit for placing obvious restrictions on media, it’s not going to be enough to stop a potential outbreak in the garage.

This is completely irresponsible of NASCAR and IndyCar, who have canceled everything in St. Petersburg this weekend besides Sunday’s grand prix, and it’s something almost every other sports organization has figured out. When you’re basically getting shown up by the XFL, that’s not a good look. And as above, it is not an easy decision to make. It’s completely understandable for there to be initial reservations for the industry. I don’t even know what might happen to this website if NASCAR and IndyCar decide to suspend their seasons. But holding a series of events and risking everybody in the sport ultimately because of television dollars is short-sighted and extremely greedy on their part.

The coronavirus does not care about TV money on the table. The coronavirus does not care about the financial ruin of individuals. Mankind is in a war, a war that can be won with our current society intact, but only with an effort that requires patience and commitment from all of us.  It is not a time to panic, but it is a time to be smart.

NASCAR needs to postpone races. IndyCar needs to postpone races. They’re already starting to get postponed, with cities beginning to wise up. It is always better to be proactive in situations like this instead of reactive. Because if the worst occurs and there is an outbreak in either garage this weekend? There will be hell to pay from the media, the public and the government.

We are at war, and during war time, non-essential functions must be eliminated for the good of the people. It happened during both World Wars, after all. Stopping sports have given doctors a fighting chance at keeping the curve in place, and it’s important right now that everybody understands that this are extraordinary circumstances.

It would suck to not be able to watch NASCAR on Saturday and Sunday; the sport and the people in it mean so much to me. But if holding an event has a tangible chance of hurting the war effort, it is not worth the risks involved.

 

Support Frontstretch on Patreon

About Michael Finley

Avatar
Michael has watched NASCAR for 15 years and began covering the sport five years ago. He is a graduate of Salisbury University and a proud member of the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA).

Check Also

Matt Kenseth Not Adapting as Quickly as He Hoped for Chip Ganassi Racing

Less than two months ago, Matt Kenseth wasn’t planning on racing in NASCAR this season …

34 comments

  1. Avatar

    Your going to catch heck for speaking the truth about the virus Michael. Nascar did need to call it off. It isn’t your normal flu some will get on here and say. Today is the 12th, revisit this ten days from now folks, the 22nd and then tell me it’s just the flu. Tell me then about all the imaginary test kits we are being told by Washington are all over the country. This is not a media fake event as some are quoting Washington. Listen to the experts who Nascar listened to, not the clown know it all. It’s just a race.

    • Avatar

      It’s too bad there aren’t any TDS test kits available either.

    • Avatar

      As of today, the 14th, the U.S. has tested 5 people per million while south Korea has tested 3,600 per million. Outrageous.
      Yesterday, Friday the 13th the new York federal reserve branch bought 1.6 TRILLION dollars of stocks in the last 20 minutes of trading during Trump’s speech. Ran the DOW up 1,000 points PLUS. It’s a fact, look it up if know how to. They admitted it. Nascar was right to cancel.

      • Avatar

        Ah, so now we know why there is a shortage of TDS test kits here – they are all being manufactured in Asia! Appreciate the help on that. Totally agree the right decision was to cancel (preferably prior to the teams travelling there). Seems we are also in agreement that manufacturing needs to be brought back to the U.S.. So I guess you are also a strong supporter of the President’s actions on that front – in particular his aggressive actions on international trade.

  2. Avatar

    I disagree. Not racing is more devastating because the business model is different. All the major sports have CBA’s. Race car drivers are independent contractors.
    Cars race because of sponsors. No race no money from sponsor. No money from them, the sport is cut down from the legs.
    It isn’t a money grab in my mind that is driving it. It is more than that. NASCAR’s is least likely to get it. They have had a number of days since last race where other sports grind week in week out. The officials don’t hang out together, the crews hang out with each other.
    I also think it is good for the country as a whole to have some kind of live sporting event going on as an escape from these stress inflicted on it now.
    Just a counter point.

  3. Avatar

    Let me make sure I understand this correctly. We should bring life, including NASCAR, to a complete standstill. Destroy our economy and future. For something that has currently killed less worldwide than the flu virus kills annually in the USA. That has killed less than the Swine Flu killed in the USA and certainly worldwide. Where was the panic then? Why don’t we get constant news reports about how many new flu cases have been diagnosed. About how many flu cases have been hospitalized? About how many new deaths from the flu?
    How many people die in motor vehicle accidents daily? annually? Should we stop driving?
    I know I am silly but I look at numbers and stats rather than react to hysteria. Maybe I will contract it and be dead within a few weeks. Then you can laugh at me.

  4. Avatar

    Does anybody with a brain notice how political this is and how this virus is being used to scare the sheep! So many common sense things. One should ask why is the economy self shutting down so quickly in all sectors? Every mintute another money making venture is shutting down? Why? Sheep are buying into this Bs! Look up the stats so far and look up the stats with this garbage when the prior occupant of the White House had to deal with things far worse than this 19th version that has been around for thousands of years. Oh please. They hysteria is manufactured by the media and criminal the mental anguish it is putting on the simpleton sheep. They don’t care about your retirement, your savings, etc. Get the bad ORANGE MAN out of the White House! If you don’t see this, you are part of the problem!

    • Avatar

      wow man…you need to grab a paper bag and just breathe for a minute….

      Also there are more factors that are going into the economic downfall we are seeing right now but this is a racing comment section so it won’t be discussed here as it is not the place.

  5. Avatar

    I agree that this virus deal has been politicized as all things tend to be in this country anymore. And just so everyone isn’t thinking that the following comment is anti-Trump, I voted for him in 2016 and will do so again in November.
    I will just ask one question, why are countries like Italy and South Korea and China doing the same thing? Their motivation can’t all be anti-Trump in nature.

    • Avatar

      Well, China’s motivation could be… Trump’s been a thorn in their side since the day he took office.

    • Avatar

      Man Bill….this is just crazy how people can shape a natural disaster into a political one. China did not release their knowledge of this virus in fear of the economical implications due to it being their new year and heavy tourist activity.

      • Avatar

        Everything is political, Iceman. EVERYTHING! I try to poke fun at it and not take politics too seriously. You can’t or it’ll drive you insane. There are a massive number of examples all across the internet of people who are/have lost their minds over politics – regardless of which “side” one votes for.

        Do I wish things were different? Sure. Do I wish Americans were more United as a country and not divided by donkeys, elephants, race, age, gender, sports team, and so on? Absolutely. Do I wish there was some freakin’ racing going on this weekend? HELL YEAH I DO! But regardless, we’ll survive. We’ll get through this just like we did Y2K, Mad Cow, SARS, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, etc…

        Ya’ll stay safe, healthy, and have a great weekend!

  6. Avatar

    i feel bad for the vendors at the tracks that man the concession stands. those are typically organizations that use this as a huge way to raise funds for stuff.

    people panic buying stuff i don’t understand. let’s take it all so no one else can get stuff. i knew there were a lot of sheep in the world, but dang.

    • Avatar

      As I have been saying for years, if you manage concessions at Bristol, how many hot dog rolls should you order. 135,000 X 2 used to be right, then it became 35,000 X 1 and now it may be 300 X 4 for crew only. Somewhere there are trailerloads of hot dog rolls sitting in the dark…

  7. Avatar

    If you turn off the news, I’d say things are pretty normal. Sounds like you might have sipped a bit too much of the Kool-aid.

    • Avatar

      the people where i work are off the chain about it. people yesterday who were normal are now part of the let’s buy out the stores, it’s serious.

      being a person who grew up during the cold war, you always had a pantry of supplies. i cannot believe people don’t have enough toilet paper to last them 14 days. even in europe the grocery stores are opened. other business are closed. what next, a run on the banks to clean out bank accounts?

      schools are closed here in ga. but it’s not holiday, kids are suppose to do digital learning, so that tells me the kids have school, but at home. this is 2020 and i am blown away at the fact that people have school age kids and they don’t have a computer at home. how do these kids do homework? my 94 yr old aunt has a computer!

      • Avatar

        Janice,
        You’d be surprised by how many smart people for whom money is not an issue don’t have a computer anymore. All they care about are their damn smart phones. As for having a supply of food and necessities, we have all gotten spoiled in the land of plenty with grocery stores open 24/7. When we need something we go and get it.

        • Avatar

          Several here in Mi within the Pontiac, Detroit, and Flint area with students that don’t have computers or internet. School’s here are shut down till April 5th.
          We always have months worth of food and supplies…the toilet paper one baffles my entire family and friends

          I have to go to the store to get some bread and creamer tho….I will either do that around 11pm tonight or 4 am tomorrow cause I have already heard several fist fights have broken out over the ever so life dependent toilet paper…puzzling at best.

  8. Avatar

    NASCAR and IndyCar are not the ones being irresponsible, it’s the writer of this article, and others like him in the media, that have to hype everything way out of proportion. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be taking this virus seriously, but the panic and outright lunacy of the media and others is just ridiculous. We’re a country of 320 million people, where as of this morning there have been 41 deaths attributed to the virus. And 31 of those occurred at a single nursing home in Washington state.

    The elderly and those in poor health are most at risk, with the average age of those dying said to be 81. If anyone should be scarred it should be me. I’m 65 and have some ongoing health problems, yet like the fool I am, I just spent 5 days at Sebring crewing on a vintage race car, followed by a week at Disney World surrounded by thousands of strangers, and a week in Cape Coral FL, visiting shops, museums and restaurants. I had also planned on attending St Pete this weekend. I understand taking precautions. I have no problem with restricting travel from China and Europe. It makes perfect sense to me. I’m all for regularly washing your hands and the availability of public hand sanitation stations, but I just can’t agree with this complete lock down of our society.

  9. Avatar

    Age likely effects your thoughts on this topic. As a 66 year old in good health, I’m on the fence. The likelihood of getting the virus is low and equal for all ages, but the consequence of getting it is effected by age. Italy shows the decisions that need to be made if the number of patients at any one time gets greater than the capacity of the system to support them. They are making decisions about who gets and who doesn’t get ventilators based on age and health condition (and likely bribery). The virus is here. How well can the growth be managed to keep the hospitals capable of keeping up with the need? Focus on improving your immune system through diet. That’s a worthwhile thing to do that even if this blows over will be time well spent

  10. Avatar

    OK, I realize you are all experts in biology, medicine, and research. Also your abilities to apply statistical analysis to the probability of getting the disease. (You should be undefeated in the Powerball). I am being sarcastic for a reason. I tend to believe science and the medical industry as to your opinion. You folks remind me of a late friend who said, “I’ve smoked for 40 years and don’t have cancer,” about three months before he died of lung cancer.
    You don’t know how it’s going to spread. NASCAR, surprisingly, has made the right call. Probably because of the threat of lawsuits.
    They did the right thing.

    Unless you are an actuary, micro biologist, medical researcher, chemist, or lawyer, state your opinion but remember there are NO FACTS to back business as usual.

    You are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts. And Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hanity or Rachael Maddow are not experts.

    • Avatar

      Well, I’m not any of those things – but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. So I’ve got that going for me (which is nice).

    • Avatar

      As you can see from my comment above, I wasn’t one of the experts but I would like your opinion on this thought.

      So we stop everything for 2 to 4 weeks. The number of new cases dwindle. Then what? Isn’t the virus still floating around out there? Won’t we end up right back where we started? Do we repeat this process over and over until we have a vaccine? That could be a couple of years. Wouldn’t a biologist tell you that, assuming the death rate wasn’t enough to wipe out the specie, the best way is to let nature take it’s course.

      • Avatar

        I think we may know this answer in a week as many factories in China are re-opening their doors as we speak.

  11. Avatar

    NASCAR finally made the right call. They’re shutting down for a while and canceling all races. This virus is much, much a bigger deal than all you trump supporters can understand

    • Avatar

      It’s going to be for a lot longer than they are letting on. I’m surprised Trump doesn’t pull out his AK assault rifle and just shoot the virus and save the world again while he’s lining his pockets.

    • Avatar

      Agreed – definitely prudent to take a break until it all blows over. Personally, I believe the Russian’s are behind it all, and hope the D’s will investigate soon.

  12. Avatar

    Regardless of whether you’re Republican or a Democrat, you’re at risk. If we have to miss a few sporting events, well, it’s not the end of the world. We don’t make the rules, and bitching about the situation is useless. Like Jeremy said, we’ll get through this.