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Pennsylvania speedway announces 2020 NASCAR events will be held without fans

DEREK LEVARSE
(Wilkes-Barre) Times-Leader (TNS)
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Monroe County, the home of Pocono Raceway, officially entered the yellow phase of Pennsylvania’s reopening plan on Friday.

It’s progress, but the threat of the coronavirus pandemic still isn’t going to allow the track to host fans when NASCAR comes to town this summer, with Cup Series races tentatively scheduled for June 27 and June 28.

In a letter signed by track CEO Nick Igdalsky and president Ben May, Pocono Raceway delivered the expected news Friday that the grandstands and infield would have to be empty by necessity.

“Following the guidance on sporting events in Pennsylvania issued by Governor Tom Wolf, it is with sadness to announce the 2020 NASCAR events at Pocono Raceway will be held without fans in attendance,” the letter read. “This decision, made in coordination with NASCAR and our state officials, was not made lightly.”

Wolf announced Wednesday that pro sports would be able to resume in counties that have moved to the yellow and green phases but would not be able to have spectators inside venues or outside on the property.

The first counties moved into the green on Friday, but even in those areas, gatherings of more than 250 people are prohibited, including concerts, festivals, conferences, sporting events, movies or performances.

Wolf said last week he remained in contact with Pocono and NASCAR officials but wanted to wait and see how the coronavirus situation in the region develops before giving the green light to hold races.

“The exact dates of our 2020 races (are) being finalized and will be announced by NASCAR at a later date,” Pocono Raceway said.

An answer to that could come soon.

In response to a fan’s question about the upcoming schedule, NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell tweeted Friday, “Hoping to put out next portion next week-not a full schedule yet though.”

Pocono has been in line to host a Cup Series doubleheader — the first of its kind in the circuit’s long history — as the highlight of five races at the track in a four-day stretch beginning June 25, which included ARCA, Xfinity and Truck Series events.

NASCAR’s official website still lists both Cup races — the Pocono Organics 325 and the Pocono 350 — for June 27 and June 28, respectively. But as of Friday evening, the schedule had not been updated, as it still contained links to buy tickets at Pocono, which are now unavailable.

Previously NASCAR had only confirmed race dates through June 21, the weekend before Pocono. Since resuming events earlier this month, NASCAR has rearranged its schedule to keep events in the South to stay closer to teams’ headquarters. The farthest the series is set to venture in June right now is Virginia at Martinsville Speedway.

Cup races are also set for Bristol, Atlanta, Homestead (Miami) and Talladega.