NASCAR drivers haven’t race on a real track since early March, however, as the sport set returns Sunday after missing eight events because of the COVID-19 outbreak, this will be the first time drivers get behind their wheel at the Darlington Raceway.
But the return of racing comes with complications and several changes that will make NASCAR quite different from a traditional race day. In the first four events, NASCAR announced for its return, there will be no practice or qualification — with an exception for the latter at the Coca-Cola 600.
And since the countrywide coronavirus pandemic began months ago, drivers haven’t been behind the wheel of their stock cars or had the chance to run test laps.
However, that makes Brad Keselowski a bit nervous. While the 2012 Cup Series winner spoke with NBC Sports on Wednesday, Mike Tirico asked how much trust he has in his fellow, rusty drivers.
Keselowski said: “Very little to none.”
But he also stated how the NASCAR world’s pivot to iRacing during the pandemic may affect drivers on the track when they initially return for the first of four races in two weeks.
The No. 2 Team Penske Ford driver told Tirico:
“There’s been a lot of talk about how NASCAR pivoted into e-racing, and if you followed the iRacing series that NASCAR had, they had some good success with that, ratings and so forth. But the reality is it’s not the same.
“The tactics are not the same. It looks pretty good, the graphics are pretty cool, but the way the cars drive is not the same. The way the race slows is not the same. Everything about it is much, much different.
“So the problem with that is if you’ve had success with some of the simulators or the internet events, you build almost a false sense of confidence. And that false sense of confidence, when you get on the real race track, can be a big problem. So there’s a lot of drivers that have been putting a lot of time behind the simulator, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.”