Heat is on: Hectic NASCAR tests drained drivers at Homestead

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Driver Bubba Wallace is interviewed before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in Martinsville, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

MIAMI – Some fans will be back. Some flags will be gone.

And after an exhausting few days, NASCAR is about to offer another daunting test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The Cup Series returns to the track for the third time in eight days Sunday at Homestead, which has previously hosted NASCAR only in November when the heat and humidity are less stifling than in June.

“This is kind of making history for the most grueling few weeks on a driver that I think the Cup level has ever seen,” said Brad Keselowski, who clinched his 2012 NASCAR title at Homestead. “So, you know, with respect to that, it’s the same for everybody. ... I think it’s a great test of will. It’s a great test to the drivers. I think it’s part of what makes these few weeks so compelling, not just as a participant in the sport but as a fan myself.”

He was talking about three races in short order during an already-compressed schedule.

But really, Keselowski’s words could be applied to almost any NASCAR plot point right now.

There’s the physical toll that left some drivers woozy when they finished a steamy race last Sunday at Atlanta, followed by a sticky night of racing at Martinsville on Wednesday where pit stops included gas for the tanks and in many cases ice packs for the cockpits.

There’s also the mental and emotional toll; Bubba Wallace, the only black full-time Cup Series driver, has been in the media spotlight like never before after a week where NASCAR banned the Confederate flag from flying at events, and he adorned his car with the words Black Lives Matter. And several drivers, Wallace included, severed ties with a popular helmet designer this week over social media posts largely related to the flag.

“There’s a lot of support in my corner from all aspects, from sports, from just normal people, people that are wanting to stand up for what’s right,” Wallace said, when asked to describe a week he described as mentally taxing.