Welp, it’s been 9 weeks since Week 5 was originally supposed to happen, a 500-miler at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That race, along with a slew of others, did not run at its original date and has been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some other tracks with dates haven’t been so fortunate: the Richmond Spring race, Chicagoland’s tilt, and Sonoma’s mountainous trek have all been cancelled outright.
To fill the time, NASCAR partnered with iRacing and featured the Pro Invitational Series. Real-life drivers drove computer generated cars on a truly even-keeled platform, allowing under-appreciated drivers to shine through. We saw new real-world rivalries forged in a virtual sphere, and one talented driver even lost his ride and sponsors over a slur.
NASCAR is back with a modified schedule, rampant COVID testing, principle staff, no fans in attendance, and plenty of social distancing. Today they run at Darlington (which does NOT replace its standard Fall date), and are back here again..on Wednesday? Next week they’ll run the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on its normally scheduled weekend, and run a 500km race there — again — on a Wednesday. The 2020 season feels like eons ago at this point, but we resume today.
Here’s what to look for:
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) May 17, 2020
-Brad Keselowski has drawn the Pole (no Qualifying until the 600) and will start out front. The second to last time he was here, Bad Brad waved the checkers in his awesome throwback Miller Genuine Draft deuce at the 2018 Southern 500.
Back at it today at The Lady in Black. Ready to go for another 🏁 pic.twitter.com/F5bMessx2h
— Alex Bowman (@AlexBowman88) May 17, 2020
-Alex Bowman has selected the #2 token, and will fill the Outside Pole. Bowman only has one Top 20 here, but if we remember ALL the way back to March 1st two “weeks” ago, the driver of the #88 found Victory Lane for a California Win. He is not the Bowman of recent years, and has shown a good amount of maturity. Sitting 4th in the Points, Bowman looks to maintain his great start to 2020.
— Erik Jones (@Erik_Jones) May 17, 2020
-Erik Jones was our Darlington winner last September, and he’s got an incredible 4.7 average finish here. He’s yet to finish worse than 8th; That Jones Boy rolls off 20th today. Can he best the Track Too Tough To Tame once more?
So many people to thank throughout COVID-19, but especially our frontline workers. We can’t thank you enough for all you’re doing. This weekend, we race for you.#TheRealHeroes // #NASCARIsBack pic.twitter.com/ucvboA4gAv
— Ryan Newman (@RyanJNewman) May 14, 2020
-Ryan Newman is back! After a horrific crash at the Daytona 500, we thought it would be a long time before we’d see The Rocketman again. As far as NASCAR is concerned..he only missed three races! He is definitely playoff eligible, and a Win anywhere in the next 22 races will lock him into the postseason. He’ll start 21st in his first work since February.
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) May 17, 2020
-..And Matt Kenseth is back, too! He’s the pilot of the #42 for the rest of the season after Kyle Larson’s iRacing mishap. Kenseth originally retired a while ago, or at least a strong pullback from active competition. Would you believe he’s only missed ONE Darlington race? He’s raced here as recently as 2018. Can Kenseth bounce back and do what he needs to do for his new team today? Let’s find out!
I like doing these updates a lot, but my favorite thing about them this season has been the wonderful food that my gal has been whipping up. We’ve taken a tour around the United States — region to region — and today we’ve settled in South Carolina. Here, we present to you:
Frogmore Stew! First thing, it’s not really a stew. Secondly, no frogs in sight! What you’re looking at here is shrimp, Andouille sausage, scallops, corn, and potatoes, all brought together with a singular love of getting in my stomach. We’ve opted to grill instead of boil, and if you’re in the mix for some of your own, feel free to add whatever you’d like to the foil packet, like fish, or onions.. Some reviews of this recipe has warned “you’ll eat so much you’ll feel sick.” Challenge: Accepted!
… for now 😈
— Darlington Raceway (@TooToughToTame) May 17, 2020
Coverage of the race starts on FOX at 3:30pm, green flag scheduled for 3:53pm.