May 18, 2020 / 5:07 PM / 17 days ago

NASCAR official: Return 'smoother than expected'

Kevin Harvick rolled to his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series win and Darlington Raceway provided a victorious backdrop on Sunday afternoon in South Carolina.

May 17, 2020, Darlington, SC, USA; Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning celebrates after winning the Real Heroes 400. Mandatory Credit: Brynn Anderson/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network

NASCAR officials said the Real Heroes 400 went over without a hitch and exceeded expectations as racing helped pave the way for popular sports pointing toward a potential return to competition.

It was the first event since March 8 for NASCAR, which put numerous major restrictions in place. No fans were in the stands, only a handful of media got into the event, pit crew size was reduced dramatically and no practice or qualifying took place.

“Things actually went smoother than we could have expected,” said Steve O’Donnell, vice president and chief racing officer of NASCAR.

“Getting all the teams in and inspection went well. All in all, a really good day for the sport. Excited to be back.”

XFINITY Series racing resumes Tuesday at Darlington before NASCAR runs again Wednesday in the Monster Energy series.

NASCAR is holding a meeting Monday to review the weekend that was and plans to adjust any protocol that might need to be modified. Masks are required on race grounds and teams received strict instructions about maintaining social distancing during the time off this week.

There will be another review Thursday after teams pick up to make their way to Charlotte, where the next two NASCAR events are being held.

O’Donnell said drivers and teams were more than willing to walk the line in the name of safety.

Medical personnel at the track cleared all participants and track employees following COVID-19 screening. Testing will again be conducted this week before races start.

“I think the industry really came together and did a tremendous job to enable us to get to the race,” O’Donnell said. “I think it just felt a little odd with the garage area because it was so scaled down in terms of personnel, but all in all, I thought it went really, really well.”

—Field Level Media

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