Imagine if you will the following journey into a wondrous land of imagination.
A stadium capable of hosting over 150,000 fans will be empty except for 40 race cars, essential crew members, race officials and television cameras. Lots of television cameras.
No, we’re not talking about an episode of The Twilight Zone. This dimension of sight and sound could be Bristol Motor Speedway on June 3. That’s a Wednesday night by the way.
According to multiple reports Tuesday, NASCAR has sent its race teams another tentative outline for resumption of the 2020 season. The bold new plan includes the makeup date for the postponed Food City 500 at BMS.
Barring more bad news with the COVID-19 pandemic, the fun would begin on May 17 at Darlington Raceway.
A variety of safety measures have been discussed including face masks and temperature checking stations.
Other details such as qualifying procedures will be forthcoming, but one has to wonder how a crew member will be able to wear a radio headset over a facemask.
During this life-in-limbo stage, Americans are struggling to cope. Folks are worried about health, jobs, education and the future.
We all need a mental vacation. And for many, there is no better vacation than a sporting event.
Any decent historian can tell you what a valuable role football has played in American society. Just check out a book on the industrial revolution.
But this is a story about another American-born pastime.
With its cast of handsome heroes and high speeds, NASCAR has long offered an enticing diversion from the stifling confines of office cubicles and factory floors.
In this case, the possible return of the NASCAR drama next month is all about the power of TV.
Unlike other pro sports, NASCAR is fueled by television contracts and sponsorship packages.
A sellout crowd and fantastic finish looks nice on paper, but ratings and advertising revenue are far more important here.
Leaders of Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League and the NBA have taken a wait-and-see approach with COVID-19 before deciding on a plan to resume games.
While NASCAR Cup teams are owned by a handful of ultra-rich titans of industry, the sport could not exist without the big bucks of TV networks and Fortune 500 companies.
That’s why North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has deemed NASCAR mechanics, engineers and other worker bees as essential employees.
For now, this new era of NASCAR would feature races within a two-hour radius of the Charlotte-based race shops.
The marquee attraction would be the famed Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend.
NASCAR’s long-range plan is to still hold all 36 of the scheduled races for the 2020 season, even though leaders in some states have not granted approval for sporting events.
That goal will require creativity and cooperation between NASCAR and TV networks. Think midweek races held in prime time.
NASCAR’s new journey would be based around ingenuity, courage and hope.
Now, just imagine that proposed June 3 race at Bristol Motor Speedway without a single spectator. Just exactly how wondrous would that be?