As NASCAR prepares to get drivers to their starting positions so it can once again wave the green flag, race car driver Kurt Busch shared the silver linings of getting back to the racetrack in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The racing season was temporarily suspended on March 13 but it will resume at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina on Sunday — without fans and with a limited number of onsite personnel and media.
Busch, who drives the number 1 car for Chip Ganassi Racing, joined ABC News' "Pandemic: What You Need to Know" on Thursday, where he said that "the biggest disappointment is that our fans won’t be there with us" when they begin racing again.
"The sport is driven on fan interaction before, during, and after the race. We love our meet and greets and we love celebrating with our fans. So it’s going to be tough," he said. "But I know I feel the love of my fans in my heart when I am driving. There’s also a new element that new people will be tuning in through the live stream of the race and we have new eyeballs watching, which is always good for the sport."
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NASCAR is one of the first professional sports to resume competition, along with Major League Soccer, UFC and Premiere League Lacrosse. Busch hailed the company for the steps it's taking, like requiring health questionnaires, temperature checks and social distancing.
“I’m really proud of the collaborative effort from NASCAR to make this happen — all the task forces being able to work with states and counties. This responsibility is with us to stay safe. We take it very seriously because we want to keep this going," Busch said. "It’s exciting. Everyone is up for the challenge. All the drivers, NASCAR. We want to work together. This has always been our mantra."
As if helmets, fire suits and gloves weren't enough gear, the teams will also wear additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for health and safety reasons.
Busch said there will be “PPE protocol for everyone at the track: safety crews, pit crews, everyone. All drivers will be given a fresh mask as soon as they step out of the car. Inside my car, I have a filtered air system so I feel pretty good about that.”
While NASCAR drivers were relegated to their homes due to the pandemic, many turned to iRacing, a racing simulation online video game with various tracks, weather conditions and car adjustments.
“We have a racing simulator that I have been spending hours on, working on track set ups and just staying in race shape," Busch explained. "We have been connecting with the team via Skype, FaceTime. I have been going bonkers inside as an athlete, so just trying to use technology as best I can to stay in touch with my team.”
Busch, who each year has given away 100 race tickets to veterans and active duty service members, said he'll begin including front-line workers.
“Our first step is to now help out first responders and those on the frontlines battling this virus," he said. "We also have wheels in motion to work with NASCAR as certain sections of grandstands open throughout this season. We are going to really try to get these guys in there.”