(Reuters) – NASCAR will have a clear race on Sunday on what would normally be the most glamorous and busiest day in motorsport, with Formula 1 and IndyCar remaining stuck in the virtual world.
ARCHIVE PHOTO: May 21, 2020, Darlington, SC, USA; Chase Briscoe team members celebrate after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Race at the Darlington Raceway. Mandatory credit: Brynn Anderson / Pool photo via USA TODAY Network / Photo Archive
While the Formula 1 and IndyCar seasons remain paralyzed by the new coronavirus outbreak, NASCAR returned to live racing last Sunday and has its foot on the gas.
The popular North American stockcar series has held two World Cup races and an Xfinity series race for five days and is awaiting one of its biggest events – the Coca Cola 600, scheduled for this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend often offers a glorious high-octane feast for racing fans, with Formula 1, IndyCar and NASCAR hosting signature events on Sunday.
It starts with the Monaco Grand Prix, followed by the Indianapolis 500 and ends with the Coca Cola 600, the longest race of the NASCAR season.
But this Sunday, NASCAR has the limelight, running the 600-mile race in prime time, with no competition other than the virtual Grand Prix of Monaco and a sports race in the famous 2.5-mile oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with seven ex-500 winners, including 80- Mario Andretti.
In fact, NASCAR will be practically the only show in town, with the NBA and NHL, which would happen in the middle of the playoffs at this point in the season, and MLB, all on the sidelines, disrupting the return to game scenarios.
"This is an incredible opportunity for NASCAR to have an exclusive position on the day," Neal Pilson, former president of CBC Sports and now head of Pilson Communications Inc., told Reuters.
"On a day that usually has baseball, the NBA playoffs in the postseason and the NHL Stanley Cup and golf, they have the weekend pretty much to themselves."
In addition to the abandoned racing scenes on the scene of large empty stands, the return of NASCAR was well received by sports-hungry fans, who for nearly two months survived the virtual action and reruns of historic contests.
The return race last Sunday at the Darlington Raceway drew 6.5 million viewers, making it the most watched race for the Daytona 500 NASCAR Cup since Atlanta on March 5, 2017.
After years of declining ratings and the retirement of many of the biggest names in stockcar, NASCAR was given a huge opportunity to reapply the series to the casual fan and reverse the television ratings that had been declining for years.
"The ratings were very good and I hope they will be again this weekend," said Pilson. “NASCAR's ratings over the past year have increased over previous years, have rounded the corner and improved on television in recent years.
“There was a long period of time when they failed to match the previous numbers. Now everything is positive. "
Steve Keating reporting in Toronto; Edition by Ken Ferris
Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust principles.