NASCAR's first race since coronavirus shutdown features strict safety measures

Real Heroes 400 will be held without fans in attendance at famed Darlington Raceway

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NASCAR will hold its first race in two months in South Carolina on Sunday with strict safety guidelines in place to protect its employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

In order to comply with public health guidance, the Real Heroes 400 will be held without fans in attendance at the famed Darlington Raceway. It will mark the first occasion in NASCAR's 72-year history that a race will be held without a crowd.

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Aside from adhering to the unprecedented protocols, NASCAR drivers and crews will have to shake off the rust after a two-month layoff. NASCAR won't allow any practice runs prior to the start of the race and each team will be limited to no more than 16 crew members.

NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) leads the pack during the Bojangles' Southern 500 on Sept. 1, 2019, at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. (Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports)

“It’s going to be very different for them,” NASCAR President Steve Phelps told FOX Business Network regarding the drivers. “We have them isolated in their motorcoaches and then when it’s time for them to go racing, they’ll make their way safely through the screening and get right into the vehicles. When they get out, they’ll put on masks, they’ll go back outside the footprint, back into the place where it’s safe for them.”

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NASCAR is among the first U.S. sports leagues to attempt a comeback after the coronavirus pandemic forced a mass shutdown in mid-March. The racing circuit has 20 races scheduled across its three series through June, including seven races over an 11-day span beginning on Sunday. The loss of ticket sales, a key source of revenue, will be a difficult financial obstacle to overcome.

Race officials developed their safety plan in coordination with federal, state and local authorities, as well as guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

NASCAR’s presence at Darlington will be limited to about 900 workers, far less than the roughly 2,000 workers that would be on site under normal conditions. Drivers were told to be on the track four hours ahead of the race's start time.

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“We’ve tried to limit as much as we can, so really just essential personnel in the footprint of the race track. That was important for us. We wanted to try to limit that as much as we can,” Phelps added.

All NASCAR employees and team members participating in races must wear masks and are subject to health screenings and social distancing protocols. Participants will not be tested for COVID-19 because NASCAR officials wanted to ensure testing kits are reserved for the public.

Any violations of NASCAR's safety plan could result in fines of up to $50,000.

Despite a loss of key revenue sources and a strict race environment, NASCAR is confident that it is ready to return to action without any major issues.

"We're excited about the plan that we have in place. We've vetted it, fine-tuned it and we’re ready to go on Sunday," Phelps said.

The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway will air Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

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