RALEIGH, N.C. — NASCAR team members may be going back to work sooner rather than later.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced the state’s stay-at-home order, which was scheduled to expire on April 29, has been extended through May 8, but also appeared to open the door for NASCAR teams to return to work.
“After a thorough analysis of the details of testing, tracing, and trends, and having conversations with Trump Administration officials like Dr. Fauci, it’s clear that we are on the right path but that our state is not ready to lift restrictions yet,” Governor Cooper said. “We need to slow the virus before we can ease restrictions, so today I’m extending the stay-at-home order until May 8. This includes continued closure of dine-in restaurants, bars and close-contact businesses like hair and nail salons, movie theaters and others in Executive Order 120.”
However, later in the press conference, Governor Cooper said it was his understanding that NASCAR teams were allowed to return to work under the current state executive order.
“From the information that I have now, already under our state executive order, they can begin working in their garages as an essential business, as defined under our executive order,” Cooper said. “(Teams) are still in contact with local health departments. Local governments may have some different health restrictions.”
A majority of NASCAR teams are based in North Carolina and the state’s stay-at-home order has prevented race teams from preparing race cars for any potential return to racing.
Governor Cooper implemented the stay-at-home order on March 27, which requires all non-essential workers to stay home in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
NASCAR has postponed eight race weekends due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including most recently Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on May 8-9. The next NASCAR weekend on the schedule is NASCAR All-Star Race weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway May 15-16, followed by Coca-Cola 600 weekend on May 22-24.
Governor Cooper acknowledged he has been in contact with NASCAR executives and they are working on a plan to get the sport back on track, potentially at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Memorial Day weekend without fans in the stands.
Earlier this week North Carolina Speaker Tim Moore sent a letter to Governor Cooper asking him to allow NASCAR to return to competition at Charlotte Motor Speedway during Memorial Day weekend without fans in attendance.
“(Teams) are talking to local governments about how to run their garages and get cars ready,” Governor Cooper said. “We’ll have an announcement on that pretty soon after more conversations with public health and NASCAR officials.”
North Carolina officials confirmed during Thursday’s press conference that there have been 7,608 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 253 deaths in the state since the outbreak began.