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NASCAR events, with no fans attending, mark return of sports to U.S.

Denny Hamlin (11), Kevin Harvick (4), Kyle Busch (18) and Matrtin Truex Jr. (19) will be among the drivers in the field for the Cup Series race Sunday at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. File Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI
Denny Hamlin (11), Kevin Harvick (4), Kyle Busch (18) and Matrtin Truex Jr. (19) will be among the drivers in the field for the Cup Series race Sunday at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. File Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

May 13 (UPI) -- NASCAR races will be back starting next week as live sports events try a gradual return after being suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NASCAR's season, initially without fans in the stands, will resume with a Cup Series race at 3:30 p.m. EDT Sunday at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. The 400-mile, 292-lap race will air on Fox.

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A second Cup Series race will take place at 7:30 p.m. EDT May 20 at Darlington Raceway and will air on FS1.

The NASCAR season has been suspended since mid-March.

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NASCAR will use a random draw based on car owner standings to decide the starting lineup for Sunday's race.

The second race will include the top 20 finishers from Sunday's race moved to positions 21 to 40 to start the race. The 21-40 finishers from the first race will start in positions 1 through 20.

NASCAR also will hold an Xfinity Series race at 8 p.m. EDT Tuesday at Darlington Raceway. The NASCAR Cup Series schedule continues with a Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday format through the end of May.

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The Coca-Cola 600 will be at 6 p.m. EDT May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C.

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Drivers will race on the same track for another Cup Series race at 8 p.m. EDT May 27. The Kansas 400 will be the final Cup Series race in May. That event is set for 2 p.m. EDT May 31 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.

Drivers will also have modified competition cautions in the early portion of the race. The field will be frozen to accommodate longer pit stops. Pit road will open to the top 20 before it opens to the next 20 on the following lap.

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NASCAR has limited Cup Series teams to 16 traveling team members, including the driver and pit crew members. Every NASCAR team member who travels to the track must fill out a health questionnaire and have their temperature taken.

All team members are required to wear a mask when not wearing a helmet that covers their face. Drivers also will be required to wear a mask if not wearing a helmet.

Teams have also been told not to give handshakes, fist-bumps or exhibit other contact-involved celebratory behavior.

Fox's broadcast crew will call the race from a studio in Charlotte, but pit reporter Regan Smith will be on site. Press box access will be limited to four reporters and no in-person interviews will be available. The top-three drivers and the first-place crew will be available after the race on Zoom video conference.

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Virtual All-Star Series

NASCAR drivers participated in an eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series as the Cup Series was on hiatus due to the pandemic. Now some of the best drivers in Formula 1 history will pack the field for a race at a virtual version of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Legends Trophy stars from The Race All-Star Esports Series powered by ROKiT Phones will compete May 23 on ESPN2. The field includes Indianapolis 500 winners Emerson Fittipaldi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran, Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan.

The field also includes: 2009 Formula 1 champion Jenson Button; fellow ex-Formula 1 racers Mika Salo, Jan Magnussen, David Brabham, Emanuele Pirro, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Max Papis; team owner Bryan Herta; World Rally Championship's Tom Coronel, Jason Plat, Andy Priaulx and Petter Solberg; and Le Mans driver Darren Turner.

"I'm excited about heading to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the Legends Trophy," Franchitti said.

"It's a place that changed my life forever by virtue of my three Indy 500 victories. While the rewards are brilliant, the pressure and stress to perform and make no mistakes at the speedway can be intense."

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The Formula 1 season scheduled to begin in March has been postponed indefinitely. Formula 1 officials hope to start the season this summer.

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