One of the first major sports to return to action amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is NASCAR.
Drivers get back to racing on Sunday at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina following a 13-week hiatus.
Rochester Hills-native NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski says he’s been filling up his time away from racing.
“My wife and I have a newborn baby, I’m spending time with them and spending time with other daughter who is 5-years-old,” Keselowski said. “We’re having fun with those experiences.”
While Keselowski’s wife was teaching their daughter how to spell, he said he got the easy topics.
“I’m teacher of sorts, a PE teacher is what I like to claim,” he said. “I teach swim class and tennis class.”
When Keselowski found out that racing would return on May 17 at Darlington, it was music to the 2012 Cup Series champion’s ears. Preparation for the race amid the pandemic, however, has been very different.
“I was allowed to sit in race car for this weekend in Darlington, but they rolled it outside because I’m not allowed in the building,” Keselowski said. “It’s the closest I’ve gotten to a race car, other than a simulator, and that’s not the same thing.”
At the track only 16 members of Keselowski’s team will be present, including himself. Everyone will get their temperature checked and must wear masks and social distance. Drivers will be alone until it’s time to race.
“There are a lot of different protocols,” Keselowski said. “I know the ones I’m a part of like wearing masks, and complete social distancing. I won’t be around my team at all -- just one person, the one who helps me strap in the car.”
There also won’t be any fans in the stands due to public health and safety. Keselowski says the experience will be different pre- and post-race, but if these protocols are necessary for NASCAR to return then he’s all for it.
“There will be a huge microscope on us,” Keselowski said. “All of us are wondering how it will go. Can we do this without people getting sick? We think so. There are great protocols in place. I think there are two conversations, physical health and mental health. The mental health aspect of having sports back is a big thing to a lot of people and I think it will be very well received.”
Keselowski predicts this race will be one for the history books.
“I think it will be one of those landmark moments for motorsports,” said Keselowski. “I feel in some ways fortunate to be a part of it. It’s not great circumstances, but (it will) definitely be a moment in history.”
Sunday’s race at Darlington is called the Real Heroes 400. All drivers will display a name of a healthcare worker or first-responder on their cars to honor them during the COVID-19 pandemic.