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Kevin Harvick Wins As NASCAR Returns Without Fans

Kevin Harvick crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday in Darlington, S.C. It's the first NASCAR race since March.
Brynn Anderson
Kevin Harvick crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday in Darlington, S.C. It's the first NASCAR race since March.

Kevin Harvick took his second career win at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, in the first NASCAR race to take place since early March — and now, without fans.

After pulling himself out of the car, Harvick admitted to thinking racing wouldn't be too different without cheering crowds in the stands.

But "it's dead silent out here," he said. "We miss the fans."

Drone cameras captured the South Carolina racetrack's 47,000 empty seats. Only essential staff — mainly from teams and broadcasters — were allowed inside Darlington's gates, reportedly numbering about 900 people.

NASCAR says it worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on putting in place new guidelines for those present at the track, including: limiting the number of staff for each of the 40 teams to 16 people; requiring everyone to have their temperatures checked as they enter the track; and mandating masks and social distancing.

NASCAR is unique among major sports as its competitors are already physically separated by their cars.

"Our competitors have a lot of PPE [personal protective equipment] to begin with," NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations John Bobo told NASCAR.com. "They're wearing firesuits, they're wearing fireproof everything when they're over the wall. ... [On the infield] we have this ability to space out our operations dramatically."

After 10 weeks on hiatus due to the coronavirus and eight missed races, NASCAR is pushing forward — and pushing teams — with a busy new schedule. Seven races are taking place over the next 11 days, four of them Cup series races. Through the end of May, races will be held either at Darlington, Charlotte, or in Bristol, Tenn.

Most race teams are based in the Charlotte area and would not need to fly to those events.

The remaining races that NASCAR has announced run through June 21 and are taking place in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.
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