DARLINGTON, S.C. – Darlington Raceway is closed to the public until further notice because of the coronavirus, according to track president Kerry Tharp.
“The health and safety of our fans, employees and community is our most important priority,” Tharp said. “At this time in NASCAR’s continued quest to follow the best practices from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and other public health agencies, we have instructed the track staff to work from home, effective this afternoon.
“And we’ve developed and now implemented an alternative work arrangement plan that allows our team to maintain business operations,” Tharp added. “Our administrative office, our ticket office, museum and gift shop are temporarily closed to any visitors until further notice.”
Darlington’s throwback weekend is still scheduled for Sept. 4-6, with the Southern 500 set to start at 6 p.m. on the NBCSN on Sept. 6. This year’s Southern 500 will be the first race of NASCAR’s playoff.
The Sept. 5 Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200, is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. on NBC. That same day, NBC is now supposed to televise the Kentucky Derby, which was pushed back from its original May 2 start, which has a 6:50 p.m. post time.
After Tharp was asked how the Kentucky Derby could affect Darlington’s TV coverage, he wasn’t worried.
“I know we’ll still be televised,” Tharp said. “Surely, there will be a lot of horsepower that weekend, right? We’ve got a great partner in NBC and we feel very good about what they’ve done to promote our weekend, and certainly NASCAR. Those are decisions that will have to be made at a later date.”
It also appears the Southern 500 won’t be pushed back in light of seven races needing to be rescheduled: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami, Texas Motor Speedway, Bristol (Tenn.), Richmond (Va.), Talladega (Ala.) and Dover (Del.). Midweek races and even doubleheaders could help make up for that.
“While talking with NASCAR leadership, they are working extremely hard,” Tharp said. “They’ve postponed the races through May 3 (the next race is May 9 at Martinsville). So I know they want to do all they can to get the entire schedule in.
“They’re working on (the postponed races) now,” he added. “It’s our belief, and we’re optimistic about it that we’ll be putting on an outstanding event here Sept. 4-6 here at Darlington that our fans are going to truly enjoy. Right now, at the present time, we’re confident we’ll be racing here Labor Day Weekend. That is certainly our hope.”
Tharp then had one final message for fans.
“We want to get the word out to our fans that the most important thing is that everybody should take precaution,” Tharp said. “Everyone should stay as safe and as healthy as possible as these are unprecedented times. They certainly transcend the world of sports, and we just want to do our due diligence to do what’s best in the interest of fans and employees and people in this community around here in the Pee Dee and across the state of South Carolina that are so supportive of our event and the people who come here from all over the country and the world.”