May 28 (UPI) -- NASCAR Cup Series rookie Tyler Reddick said it has been a challenge to sit for hours in isolation before he jumps into his car to compete against other drivers.
"It's very hard to convince my body that we are racing, as often as we are showing up to the racetrack and sitting in isolation for hours before you hop in a car and not really interacting with anybody," Reddick said Tuesday. "It's a really different change of pace."
Reddick, 24, was one of many drivers to compete in the sport's first race back from a coronavirus suspension May 17 in Darlington, S.C. He has since competed in three additional races and will jump into his No. 8 Chevrolet for the Alsco Uniforms 500 Thursday in Charlotte, N.C.
Drivers knew to expect new protocols like mandates to wear personal protective equipment, social distancing and washing their hands when they returned to the track. They can be fined for violating NASCAR's safety guidelines.
They also have new responsibilities and need to be more accountable when it comes to watching prerace film and bringing the correct equipment to their races, as other crew members aren't around to remind them or carry it for them.
"You walk out there and it was kind of funny because about 10 minutes before we are supposed to be there all of a sudden you see drivers popping out of their motor homes carrying their helmets and walking to the grid," Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace said on the Rich Eisen Show after the first Darlington race.
Drivers' bodies also have a new normal when it comes to the actual races. Instead of a walk through fans and signing autographs, drivers must stay alone in their motor homes or other vehicles for hours before they get into their cars for races.
They do media interviews through video conference software in their motor homes and communicate with their teams through their phones and computers.
"That first race back in Darlington, was really easy to get ready for because it was on a Sunday and had anticipation built around it," Reddick said. "Now we have been going back every three or four days to go back to the racetrack."
Reddick placed seventh in The Real Heroes 400 May 17 at Darlington Raceway. He finished 13th three days later in another Cup Series race at the same track. Reddick finished eighth in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. He'll line up 13th to start Thursday's 208-lap race.
Drivers have gotten used to not seeing fans in the grandstands -- a policy NASCAR enforced as a safety precaution for all races so far.
Reddick said not much has changed -- in terms of safety protocols -- since the NASCAR season resumed. He said he tries to get to the track as early as possible so he can get himself prepared to race and normalize the process of being alone.
"This is how I have to get ready to race now," Reddick said. "You don't have anyone around to help you get caught up. It's just so odd.
"I'm used to being at the racetrack and bumping into fans. I'm used to a lot of interaction from start to finish. We see one person when we get [medically] screened. They give us a sticker and you are good to go into the racetrack. If your temperature is fine, you don't see a soul until you walk onto pit road."
The Cup Series Alsco Uniforms 500, which was postponed on Wednesday, airs at 7 p.m. EDT Thursday on FS1.