Sunday marks a major event for the world of racing as the NASCAR Cup Series returns to real-life action at Darlington Raceway. With personnel limited and fans banned from the facility, the contest looks…different to say the least. That said, the stock car racing sanctioning body is trying new methods to keep the action fresh and the track from looking totally deserted.
Here’s the view from pit road about two hours before the green flag. Normally, there would be 45,000 beer-swilling fans gawking at the roar of V8s, as it should be. That’s not the case in this new version of everyday life.
Country music star and Hootie and the Blowfish frontman performed the National Anthem remotely:
As for the racing itself, Fox Sports is employing a fleet of high-speed camera drones to provide unique views of on-track action. They’re following the cars closely from overhead, displaying angles of door-to-door competition that viewers at home aren’t used to seeing—unless they follow Formula Drift or the World Rally Championship. Additionally, the broadcast network is incorporating in-car cameras as per usual to bring about some familiar sights.
Whatever NASCAR can do to keep the attention off the stands and on the cars—that’s the goal. Some may argue these tactics should’ve already been rolled out with dwindling attendance in recent years, but I digress.
The result is a new-look airing that, truthfully, could find its place even when crowds are allowed back at the country’s top speedways. Whenever that’ll be.
Likewise, the race looks drastically different from the inside, too. NASCAR President Steve Phelps explained that on-hand personnel was shrunken from the average number of 2,500 to 900 for Sunday’s Darlington round. From car crews to media pros, there simply aren’t enough people to fill the “Too Tough to Tame” track. That’s the point, after all.
Racer‘s Kelly Crandall is one of the few reporters on location, and her views from the press box are almost eery.
With NASCAR’s plan to run 13 races between May 30 and June 21 across its three national series, broadcast crews and fans alike will have plenty of time to adjust to this temporary new normal. The move to go back racing is risky in and of itself but, according to industry vets like Dale Earnhardt Jr., it’s vital for the sport’s survival.
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