The COVID pandemic happened three years ago now, and it impacted NASCAR in some crazy ways. It has caused some to look back on it and think, what if COVID never happened? Well, NASCAR Reddit asked that question, and today, we take a look at some of the craziest theories of what the sport would look like if COVID never happened.
It’s hard to find anything that was impacted more by the pandemic than the schedule. Races at Sonoma and Chicagoland were canceled and extra races at tracks like Charlotte and Darlington along with adding a race at the Daytona Road Course. How much impact did this have on the future schedule? Jdub1418 theorizes what he feels would happen.
Now, it is worth noting that NASCAR had five-year contracts with each race track they raced at, which finished up in 2020. Therefore, 2021 was going to be a year NASCAR could be poised for change regardless of how the 2020 season played out. However, North Wilkesboro is an interesting note that jdub 1418 has.
North Wilkesboro got in front of many NASCAR fans thanks to the iRacing Pro Invitational during the pandemic, where NASCAR drivers raced on a virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway. This was after Dale Earnhardt Jr. led an effort to scan the race track for iRacing. Could North Wilkesboro have come back without the pandemic? The pandemic certainly did not hurt. Remfan477 was one of those who suggested that the schedule would not change much.
He feels that a street race still would have happened. It’s entirely possible it would have given how flexible NASCAR could be with the schedule, and maybe it could have happened earlier since the pandemic limited how big events could happen.
Kyle Larson’s career took a completely different trajectory following the pandemic. He was released from Chip Ganassi Racing and suspended after uttering a racial slur during an iRacing event. He eventually signed with Hendrick Motorsports in 2021, and he has been there since. Fertecai theorized what would have happened to Larson, and everything the Larson move impacted, would the pandemic not have happened.
There is a lot that happened as a result of the Kyle Larson suspension. Larson’s contract at Chip Ganassi Racing was up at the end of 2021, not 2020. Could Hendrick Motorsports have been forced to go another direction in 2021 with the Jimmie Johnson replacement?
They would have to fill the seat with someone, and maybe they could have waited for Larson. However, it’s uncertain. Does Larson stick with Trackhouse when they buy out Chip Ganassi Racing? It’s possible, and maybe Ross Chastain never gets his big break in NASCAR either. Could Chastain have been a candidate to replace Jimmie Johnson?
The Next-Gen car was initially supposed to be introduced into competition in 2021, but the pandemic put a hold on testing. If the Next-Gen car was introduced in 2021, how would it have gone? Well, some fans on Reddit thought the car would never have worked well in 2021, with jftwo42 saying that the car would never have happened in 201.
He believes that NASCAR was too far behind parts-wise to make it happen. The Next-Gen car definitely did not have a perfect launch with parts shortages throughout its’ early life. With one less year to build it, maybe the issue is exacerbated.
It’s also possible that no pandemic means that business goes about as usual, and NASCAR gets the parts as originally planned. The bigger question is how the 2021 season would go if the Next-Gen car is introduced. Does Hendrick dominate in 2021, or does someone new dominate with the new car?
On a more sentimental note, some fans mentioned how the pandemic helped introduce them to the sport. Such was the case for BerniesDongSquad
NASCAR returned before any other sport during the pandemic, and that gave NASCAR a leg up on other sports. In the case of BerniesDongSquad, watching so much NASCAR hooked him on the sport. Now, he is a major fan. The pandemic also piqued the curiosity of Cuda14.
The pandemic caused him to try iRacing, which inspired him to start watching NASCAR in real life. He even brought in some new fans from friends and family he knew.
The pandemic made a major impact on modern NASCAR. How much we will never know, but NASCAR may not be the same today had the pandemic not happened.