DARLINGTON, S.C. — Skies were partly cloudy on what was a warm Sunday, but overall, weather wasn’t a factor for NASCAR’s return to action at Darlington Raceway.
The forecast isn’t quite as promising for its next two scheduled events on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, however.
Thunderstorms are projected for the next three days with Tropical Storm Arthur having a big effect on the East Coast.
NASCAR is hopeful both races can be run as scheduled, but the possibility of moving one or both races back a day or two does exist.
“We’re going to try our best to get both of those (races) in,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “We would have an extra day, or maybe even two on the back end of Darlington to try and get these in. A lot of that will depend too on television windows to make sure things are available.
“We’ve got some built-in time, but hopefully we’re able to get both races in.”
Overall, things went very smoothly in NASCAR’s return to racing and there were no major hiccups at Darlington, he said.
“(Track president) Kerry Tharp and his team did a great job,” O’Donnell said. “Things actually went smoother than we could have expected — getting all the teams in and inspection went well. All in all, really good day for the sport — excited to be back.
“Hopefully the fans enjoyed it on television. Surely a little odd not having fans in the stands, but I know that the fans were with us in spirit for sure.”
Reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch’s day got off to a rocky start before the race even began.
His car failed inspection twice and he was forced to begin at the back of the field. Busch was originally in the No. 4 position.
He rallied to earn a spot in the top 10 with less than 50 laps to go, but had to pit late and wound up in 26th place.
He fared much better than Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who crashed into the SAFER barrier on the backstretch in Turn 1 on the very first lap of the race.
The front of his car was damaged and flames were seen as he made his way to Pit Road as his day was finished nearly as quickly as it began.
Earlier in the day, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster welcomed the drivers to Darlington with a brief video that was streamed prior to the race.
“I love ‘The Lady in Black,’” McMaster said during the video.
He wasn’t the only S.C. face that was featured. Charleston native and Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker sang the national anthem and Sam Turbeville, director of McLeod Pastoral Services, offered the invocation.