NASCAR tackling how to reschedule races, keep teams afloat

FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2018, file photo, Denny Hamlin, left, leads the pack at the start of the NASCAR Cup Series championship auto race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, in Homestead, Fla. NASCAR and IndyCar have each called off their races this weekend. NASCAR was scheduled to run Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway without spectators but said Friday, March 13, 2020, it is calling off this weekend and next weeks race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. IndyCar was scheduled to open its season Sunday on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, but suspended its season through the end of April. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2018, file photo, Denny Hamlin, left, leads the pack at the start of the NASCAR Cup Series championship auto race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, in Homestead, Fla. NASCAR and IndyCar have each called off their races this weekend. NASCAR was scheduled to run Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway without spectators but said Friday, March 13, 2020, it is calling off this weekend and next weeks race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. IndyCar was scheduled to open its season Sunday on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, but suspended its season through the end of April. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR plans to reschedule the seven Cup Series races already postponed due to the the COVID-19 pandemic. Figuring out how to cram the events and the All-Star race into the crowded 36-race schedule could be difficult.

NASCAR has already postponed its season until May 9 at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. IndyCar suspended its start to the season through the end of April last week, while Formula One has postponed or canceled several events, including last weekend’s opener in Australia.

“These clearly are unprecedented times with information changing by the hour,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps said Tuesday. “Collectively, our industry has made several difficult decisions, all with one thought in mind -- the health and safety of our fans, our competitors, employees and everyone in the industry. The situation we are facing transcends the world of sports. What is most important now is we take precautions to keep everyone as safe as possible during these challenging times.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus within a few weeks.

Motorsports is in a particularly perilous position without weekly racing because of its financial structure. Teams must find the sponsorship needed to field each car, pay drivers, make payroll for an entire organization and cover additional operating costs. With no events scheduled until May, sponsors may ask for refunds and teams won’t be collecting payouts from purses.

Roger Penske, who in January became owner of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, promised team owners they will receive the first installment payment from the series’ bonus program as planned.

Phelps said NASCAR is still working through those issues.

“We are working with our teams closely to have them industry wide make sure we are all financially viable moving forward during this postponement of our races,” Phelps said. “Are we concerned about teams broadly and their financial health? Of course we are. We want to make sure that each of our teams gets through this, each of our stakeholders in the industry gets through this crisis as well as we all can.”