ABINGDON, Va. – According to veteran crew chief Chris Carrier, the stakes will be high for NASCAR when racing resumes later this month.
“We’re the ones that will be walking out on the plank, so we better have all our boxes checked,” Carrier said. “We must be professional, keep everybody safe and set a good example for all other sports leagues, businesses and citizens.”
Carrier and the Abingdon-based Henderson Motorsports are planning to compete in the May 26 NASCAR truck series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway with driver Parker Kligerman.
That 200-mile Tuesday night event will begin at 8 p.m., with FS1 providing television coverage.
Henderson Motorsports officials have already received a detailed list of instructions from NASCAR regarding technical and safety procedures.
“We’re doing everything we can to get ready,” Carrier said. “The only question we have right now is how the starting field will be set. If that plays in our favor, we’re gonna race.”
Carrier said he has no problem with NASCAR guidelines regarding COVID-19 such as personal protective equipment and social distancing.
In accordance with CDC and other governmental recommendations, strict limits will be placed on the number of individuals who are granted access into each track. All participants must undergo health screenings upon entry and exit.
“I’ll be honest, I hate wearing a mask and gloves but we have to follow guidelines and listen to medical professionals so that we don’t have a disaster down the road,” said Carrier, whose wife is a nurse.
“We need to get our economy and country going, but we can’t do that by saying this whole thing is a hoax. The coronavirus is not a hoax. People are dying.”
The current plan for NASCAR is to resume racing on May 17 with a Cup race at Darlington Raceway.
Xfinity and Cup Series events will then follow at Darlington. The action will then shift to Charlotte for a four-race run ending on May 27.
“Since most of the NASCAR teams are based in the Charlotte and Winston-Salem areas, this is the best plan to avoid motel stays and air travel,” Carrier said.
In the case of Henderson Motorsports, Carrier said he and his essential staff will make the 165-mile drive to Charlotte on the morning of the race.
“Teams will go through technical and safety inspections and then line the truck up on pit road. After the national anthem, we will go racing,” Carrier said.
Except for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte on May 24, there will be no practice and or qualifying.
Crew chiefs rely on practice to get a feel for their car and the conditions of the track, but that measuring stick will no longer be available under the new normal in NASCAR.
“Crew chiefs, including myself, are always the most nervous on race weekend during that first lap of practice because they are anxious to see if there is anything wrong with their car,” Carrier said. “But to be honest, this schedule will be cheaper because teams will not have to burn up as many tires or use as many parts.”
Carrier thinks crew chiefs, engineers and drivers will be able to adjust to the streamlined schedule.
“We’ve done it before,” Carrier said. “Just three years ago at Kentucky Speedway, it rained right up until the start of the truck race. There was no practice or qualifying. We just started the race and everybody did fine.”
Except for their gas man, the Henderson team rents all their race-day pit crewmen from the Stewart-Haas Racing operation. Carrier said he’s still awaiting details on how pit stops will be handled for the Charlotte truck race.
“Things aren’t going to be perfect, and that will not be possible for a while in any sport,” Carrier said. “NASCAR is still trying to figure out the best way to put on a good show and still keep everybody safe.”
At this point, Carrier said the bottom line for the extended NASCAR family is simply restore a sense of normalcy.
“It’s hard when people lose something that they’ve relied on all their lives, and I’m proud that my sport is the one that’s being aggressive and providing something for people to look forward to,” Carrier said.
“There’s no doubt that we have to get the economy back on track before people go out of business. But we have to be careful and smart at the same. The country will be watching how we do. That’s a big responsibility for all of us in the sport.”
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