NASCAR says 2020 "single most difficult year we've faced"

The 2020 season produced enormous challenges, but NASCAR President Steve Phelps lauded the sport Saturday for the “extraordinary achievement” made in completing every race.

NASCAR says 2020 "single most difficult year we've faced"
Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro NAPA Auto Parts
Darrell Wallace Jr., Richard Petty Motorsports, Chevrolet Camaro World Wide Technology, Kurt Busch, Chip Ganassi Racing, Chevrolet Camaro Monster Energy, Ryan Blaney, Team Penske, Ford Mustang BodyArmor
Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing, Toyota Camry FedEx Ground
Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Busch Beer National Forest Foundation
Brad Keselowski, Team Penske, Wabash Ford Mustang Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing, M&M's Fudge Brownie Toyota Camry
Christopher Bell, Leavine Family Racing, Toyota Camry Rheem Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Rush Truck Centers/Cummins
Joey Logano, Team Penske, Ford Mustang Shell Pennzoil/Autotrader
A worker cleans areas
Empty stand due to the ongoing Coronavirus
A worker cleans areas
Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing, Ford Mustang Smithfield
Steve Phelps, NASCAR president
Crash of Ryan Newman, Roush Fenway Racing, Ford Mustang Koch Industries

“The year has been in short I would say extraordinary, although I could probably use 15 or 20 other words to try to get to something,” Phelps said at Phoenix Raceway. “It’s just unprecedented in the history of our country, in the history of sports, and certainly in the history of our sport.

“I would suggest this is the single most difficult year that we’ve faced as a sport. But through it all this industry, I’ve said this before, I believe this industry does adversity better than any sport.”

NASCAR will officially close its 2020 season on Sunday with the season finale of the Cup Series. When that race is over, NASCAR will have successfully run the entire number of races it had originally planned for its three national series this year – Cup, Xfinity and Trucks.

Back in March, when the sport – and much of the country – shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic that seemed a very lofty goal.

“What we have done during this global pandemic is I think nothing short of remarkable,” he said. “We can’t do what we did as a sport without coming together.

“I want to thank the race teams, the race tracks, both those that we own that are part of NASCAR, but importantly the folks at Speedway Motorsports, Pocono, Dover, Indianapolis – everyone that really banded together to create something that was really something to be proud of.”

NASCAR implemented several new procedures and tried new ways of holding events – many used for the first time.

There were mid-week races, doubleheader events, practice and qualifying was eliminated and races were run in large part as one-day shows.

“When we shut down heading into Atlanta, we had no idea when we were going to get back to racing,” Phelps said. “It was our goal, and a stated goal, that we were going to run all races.

“We did it through ways that frankly probably we didn’t think we could do, right? For us to be the first sport back without fans initially on May 17 in Darlington, to the first sport back with fans, I think it’s an extraordinary achievement.”

Even with the close of the 2020 season, many questions remain about how 2021 will be run.

New COVID-19 cases are surging across the country and there is every chance the sport will begin the 2021 season at Daytona with some virus protocols and limited fan attendance still in place.

“The hallmark of our sport is about accessibility to the garage, accessibility to the drivers, the crews. We don’t have that,” he said.

“We don’t have that because we need to keep people safe. That’s the only way we’re going to run a race is if we’re going to keep people safe. I do know that we have every intention of running on February 14 the (Daytona) 500.

“Our plan is to race in front of fans.”

The 2020 season was also an important one for NASCAR in terms of its efforts to promote equality and combating social injustice.

Following the killing of George Floyd in late May, Bubba Wallace – the only fulltime African-American driver in the Cup series – called on the sport to remove the Confederate flag from race tracks.

On June 10, NASCAR officially banned the display of the Confederate flag from its tracks and properties.

“I think for us, it’s really about this notion of welcoming everyone to our sport. I think people are feeling welcomed to our sport,” Phelps said. “What we do from a social justice standpoint moving forward really to me is about human decency.

“We want to make sure that people want to come to our facilities. We want to make sure they want to participate in this sport on television, radio, digitally and socially. We want them to feel part of this community.

“It’s a fantastic community, it really is.”

Other topics Phelps touched on:

¨ Phelps said any new manufacturer coming to NASCAR would be 2023 at the earliest, which would likely align when a new engine package is introduced.

¨ There will likely by more qualifying and practice sessions in the Cup series in 2022 with the introduction of the Next-Gen car.

¨ Phelps said he was unsure whether the current 40-car limit on Xfinity and Trucks races would remain next season but “probably.”

shares
comments

Related video

Denny Hamlin hoping to "finish this thing off" at Phoenix

Previous article

Denny Hamlin hoping to "finish this thing off" at Phoenix

Next article

Gallery: A look back on Jimmie Johnson's legendary career

Gallery: A look back on Jimmie Johnson's legendary career
Load comments
How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022 Prime

How NASCAR is gearing up for its "biggest change" in 2022

It’s not just Formula 1 that’s set for upheaval in 2022, as the NASCAR Cup series adopts its Next Gen cars that will cast any in-built advantages aside and require teams to adopt a totally new way of operating. Far more than just a change of machinery, the new cars amount to a shift in NASCAR's core philosophy

NASCAR Cup
Oct 12, 2021
Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR Prime

Why Bubba Wallace’s Talladega win is such a big moment for NASCAR

Bubba Wallace claimed his maiden NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega on Monday to become the first Black victor in the category since Wendell Scott in 1963. Both Wallace and Scott had faced obstacles and racism in their paths to their breakthrough wins, and NASCAR is trying to put it right with its range of diversity programmes

NASCAR Cup
Oct 5, 2021
Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI Prime

Why NASCAR's most resilient driver has landed on his feet at 23XI

In a career that has had many ups and downs, Kurt Busch has been written off many times before. But facing career uncertainty after the sale of Chip Ganassi's NASCAR team, the 2004 Cup champion has found a new berth at Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan's 23XI organization - which underlines his enduring value

NASCAR Cup
Aug 31, 2021
From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview Prime

From the archive: Dale Earnhardt’s final Autosport interview

The death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500 shocked NASCAR to the core. At the Daytona 24 Hours, two weeks before his fatal accident, ‘The Intimidator’ shared his expectations of challenging for an eighth Cup title with JONATHAN INGRAM, in an article first published in the 15 February 2001 issue of Autosport magazine. Little did we know then what tragedy would unfold…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death Prime

The lasting NASCAR legacy after Dale Earnhardt’s death

On February 18, 2001, seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Dale Earnhardt – the fearless ‘Intimidator’ – was in his element at Daytona International Speedway. While his own DEI team’s cars ran 1-2 towards the finish line, his famed #3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Monte Carlo was playing rear gunner to block any late runs from the chasing pack. As the cars tore through Turns 3 and 4 on that fateful final lap, Earnhardt maintained the strongarm tactics that encapsulated his persona… but his actions in those moments sadly proved to be his last.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 18, 2021
Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR Prime

Inspired by Pitbull, the “revolution” sweeping through NASCAR

The NASCAR Cup Series is changing. Whether it be the gradual morphing out the seasoned drivers of yesterday as the next generation step up, a radical calendar shake-up featuring more road courses than ever before and the prospect of an all-new car on the horizon, stock car racing’s highest level is nearing the end of a huge facelift.

NASCAR Cup
Feb 16, 2021
The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021 Prime

The NASCAR storylines to watch out for in 2021

This weekend's Daytona 500 kickstarts a NASCAR Cup season that promises plenty of intrigue courtesy of new owners and a refreshed calendar. Here's what you need to know ahead of the new season…

NASCAR Cup
Feb 13, 2021
Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption Prime

Why Kyle Larson can't blow his big shot at redemption

From a disgraced NASCAR exile, Kyle Larson has been given a chance of redemption by the powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports squad. Effectively replacing seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson is no easy billing, but Larson has every intention of repaying the team's faith...

NASCAR Cup
Feb 11, 2021