NASCAR made its official return Sunday at Darlington Raceway after more than two months off due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Now, the Cup Series will have its second event in less than a week’s span Wednesday at that same 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval in South Carolina considered “Too Tough to Tame.”
That’s a quick turnaround even for the sport’s best drivers, considering they normally race once during the weekend with time to practice and qualify beforehand. Not with the recently revised 2020 schedule. Most of it consists of one-day shows twice a week.
“We always make fun of ourselves in a Monday meeting afterwards, where, ‘Oh, man, if you’re going back there tomorrow, what would you do?'” Kurt Busch said after Sunday’s The Real Heroes 400 in which he finished third. “This is that moment. So I’m happy we’re going to jump in on some digital meetings and jump back here on Wednesday.”
While Sunday’s race began in the daytime, Wednesday’s Toyota 500 is set for green at 6 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Wednesday’s lineup has already been set, and it is based off Sunday’s final results. The top 20 were inverted, with the bottom 19 starting from where they finished. That means Kevin Harvick, who won the first go-around, will start 20th rather than dead last and Ryan Preece will fire off from the pole position since he came in 20th.
“I mean, I’ll be honest, I think Wednesday night is going to be a little tough on us starting back there,” said Rodney Childers, crew chief of the race-winning No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. “Our best-case scenario is to have a lot of cautions and the pit crew knock it out of the part like they did (Sunday). If you can knock out 12.5 stops every time you come down, you’re going to end up at the front towards the end of the race.”
Going to need to do so quickly, too. Wednesday will be 65 laps shorter than Sunday – 228 as opposed to 293, which in mileage means 310.6 instead of 400.2.
Harvick’s team has decided to save the same car. Other organizations haven’t released that tidbit of information, but they also don’t have the race-winning entry in their garage.
“I don’t know if you could bring the same car or not,” said Alex Bowman, whose No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet placed second. “I did get the wall a little bit, so they’d have to probably put at least a new right-rear quarter panel on it. That gets pretty tricky on trying to turn stuff around. I don’t think we’ll bring the same car. Fairly certain we’ll bring a different car.”
Decisions, decisions. But that’s a normal competition aspect.
When it comes to the new COVID-19 precautions, drivers wouldn’t change a thing. They thought the at-track procedures implemented went smoothly — most importantly, safely. So did the sanctioning body.
“Again, it’s a privilege to be out there racing in a situation like this,” Busch said. “So, thank you, NASCAR, for getting everything together. We’ll be back on Wednesday.”