The COVID-19 pandemic is making decisions for most racing organizations, shifting schedules at will and throwing havoc into traditional starts, and traditional dates held most seasons prior to 2020. Just about the only racing that’s sticking to original scheduling are this week’s Chili Bowl in Tulsa and IMSA’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 and the following week’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, both of which nominally begin each racing season. There is fan attendance at both but it wouldn’t be proper to call them “crowds”.
NASCAR had to rethink its scheduling before the close of the calendar year, relegating a visit to California’s Auto Club Speedway into the also-ran category, as the circuit prepares to be a smaller oval venue. As is the custom, NASCAR starts its three touring series (and ARCA) at Daytona International Speedway with the Busch Class, qualifying races and the Daytona 500. From there the traditions go elsewhere as the Cup stars remain in Daytona Beach and race on the track’s road course for the first time.
The series then goes to Homestead-Miami Speedway south of its naming city, to close the month of February before heading to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Phoenix Raceway to start the month of March with a smaller western swing. After that, things settle down in the southeast for NASCAR, which is hoping that a return to “normal” will concur with the wending ways of each stock car season. There will be fans at the first races but they will be extremely limited, NASCAR has said.
Even NHRA, which has traditionally started its Camping World Drag Racing Series season at its ancestral, Pomona, Calif. home each year will, in 2021 start the proceedings at the 52nd annual Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla. This scheduling change was done before the entire list of races was confirmed and isn’t a change to an announced slate of events. It’s actually not a bad idea, as all NHRA professional and most amateur classes are on-hand at the large, secluded Gainesville Raceway track.
Formula One isn’t immune either. The home of most of its teams, Great Britain is under lockdown with the new coronavirus variant in rampant spread, forcing the series to move its traditional opener in Australia from March to November, causing the 23-contest calendar to start at Bahrain the final weekend of March as the Australian Grand Prix is set for November 18-21. At least it’s not cancelled as happened in 2020. The Chinese GP is iffy and Imola gets another run on April 18.
All the scheduling adjustments F1 is making gives North and South America a triple play next fall, with the USGP at Austin, TX taking place on October 24, Mexico City the following, Halloween weekend and Brazil the first weekend of November before the troupe travels Down Under. All of these changes are, of course, written in pencil and can be changed at the whim of the pandemic.
INDYCAR has already changed its scheduling and has Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama tentatively as its starter, rather than the Streets of St Petersburg, the race that ended, rather than started the 2020 campaign. This year’s season-closer will be in Long Beach, acknowledged as the second-most popular INDYCAR event behind the Indianapolis 500, which is hoping to return to its traditional, Memorial Day weekend – with fans, this time.
The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance has moved to late May from its traditional March date, even though this 26th incarnation of automobilia adoration is a completely outdoors endeavor. It remains to be seen whether the August vehicular love-fest on the Monterey Peninsula will go forward as planned.