The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway got underway without incident Sunday as the NASCAR series returned to the track for the first time after a 10-week hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After just a few parade laps, Brad Keselowski led the 40-car field from his randomly-assigned pole position into turn one under green without the benefit of any practice or qualifying without incident, but Ricky Stenhouse Jr. spun into the infield wall as he was entering the back straightaway, bringing out the yellow flag. Stenhouse’s car caught fire on the way to the garage, but he was unhurt.
Racing restarted on lap seven without incident, and Keselowski was still in the lead by lap 17.
A competition caution period has been scheduled for lap 30 that will freeze the running order to give teams extra time in the pits to make adjustments on the cars, which haven’t turned a wheel on a track since March 8.
The race is being held without fans in attendance and with a reduced numer of team, track and media personnel at the South Carolina track, where social distancing and health screening protocols are in place. Hootie and the Blowfish singer Darius Rucker provided a pre-recorded rendition of the the national anthem and 40 frontline health-care workers acted as grand marshals and gave the “start your engines” command via a group livestream.