Start your engines! Nascar returns to empty grandstands as tracks remain closed amid coronavirus pandemic - but fans still turn up to cheer and tailgate outside(19 Pics)

Nascar became the latest professional sports league to restart their season as engines roared at a South Carolina racetrack on Sunday for its first event back.
The Real Heroes 400 cup series, in honor of frontline healthcare workers, kicked off the week with a highly anticipated race at the famous Darlington Raceway. 
NASCAR was dark for the past 10 weeks, the only glimpse of racing coming virtually during a series of gaming events after it shut its doors in March.  
Inside the race track, stadium seating was idle as fans were not allowed inside to sit in the shoulder-to-shoulder seating.
Nascar restarted its 2020 season to a near empty race track on Sunday as fans were barred from attending The Real Heroes 400 cup series race at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina
Nascar restarted its 2020 season to a near empty race track on Sunday as fans were barred from attending The Real Heroes 400 cup series race at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina
Pictured: A man wearing a face mask stands in an otherwise empty grandstand at Darlington Raceway before the Real Heroes 400 NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday
Pictured: A man wearing a face mask stands in an otherwise empty grandstand at Darlington Raceway before the Real Heroes 400 NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday
Nascar temporarily halted its racing season for 10 weeks starting in March after the coronavirus pandemic caused state lockdowns and stay-at-home orders
Nascar temporarily halted its racing season for 10 weeks starting in March after the coronavirus pandemic caused state lockdowns and stay-at-home orders  
A Nascar driver competing in The Real Heroes 400 race drives past empty stadium seats on Sunday after the professional sports league restarted their season
A Nascar driver competing in The Real Heroes 400 race drives past empty stadium seats on Sunday after the professional sports league restarted their season 
Only a limited number of track, team and medial personnel were found inside Darlington Raceway, where temperature checks were performed and social distancing was enforced, Fox News reports. 
Singer Darius Rucker sang the National Anthem in a pre-recorded video and 40 healthcare workers performed the 'start your engines' call over livestream.   
Despite no tickets being sold to the cup series race, Nascar's first day back attracted some passionate tailgaters.
'It's about time to hear the engines and smell the gas fumes,' fan Dennis Nobles said. 
During the race, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson led the pack during the last laps of stage one before crashing into the wall on the final stretch.
The Real Heroes 400 win went to Kevin Harvick, who became the 14th Nascar driver to in history to reach 50 competition wins. 
People rented houses across from the 70-year-old track and showed up to its famed Raceway Grill outside turn two simply to be near an event they missed the past two months. 
Pictured: A sign thanking people working during the coronavirus pandemic is displayed in a turn at Darlington Raceway during The Real Heroes 400, which honors frontline healthcare workers amid the coronavirus pandemic
Pictured: A sign thanking people working during the coronavirus pandemic is displayed in a turn at Darlington Raceway during The Real Heroes 400, which honors frontline healthcare workers amid the coronavirus pandemic
Pictured: Ryan Preece, driver of the #37 Cottonelle Chevrolet, has his temperature checked by NASCAR Security prior to the NASCAR Cup Series The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway
Pictured: Ryan Preece, driver of the #37 Cottonelle Chevrolet, has his temperature checked by NASCAR Security prior to the NASCAR Cup Series The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway
Dozens of Nascar fans descended into Darlington, South Carolina, on Sunday to watch The Real Heroes 400 cup series race outside Darlington Raceway, at the nearby Raceway Grill and other spots near the race
Dozens of Nascar fans descended into Darlington, South Carolina, on Sunday to watch The Real Heroes 400 cup series race outside Darlington Raceway, at the nearby Raceway Grill and other spots near the race 
Only a limited amount of media, crew and track personnel were allowed inside Darlington Raceway during the event in an effort to adhere public health guidelines. Pictured: Driver Denny Hamlin wears a mask while being interviewed on Sunday
Only a limited amount of media, crew and track personnel were allowed inside Darlington Raceway during the event in an effort to adhere public health guidelines. Pictured: Driver Denny Hamlin wears a mask while being interviewed on Sunday 
Kevin Harvick (pictured), who won The Real Heroes 400 race, stands next to his car on Sunday while wearing a mask at Nascar's first official race
Kevin Harvick (pictured), who won The Real Heroes 400 race, stands next to his car on Sunday while wearing a mask at Nascar's first official race 
A row of race cars drive past Earnhardt Towers (pictured), which sat empty on Sunday as Darlington Raceway remained closed to the general public amid the coronavirus pandemic
A row of race cars drive past Earnhardt Towers (pictured), which sat empty on Sunday as Darlington Raceway remained closed to the general public amid the coronavirus pandemic 
Tony Baird: 'People are tired of sitting at home and just want to get back to a sense of normalcy. For it to be the first sporting event coming back is special and it’s good for NASCAR to kind of kick things off' Pictured: race cars zoom past an empty grandstand on Sunday
 Tony Baird: 'People are tired of sitting at home and just want to get back to a sense of normalcy. For it to be the first sporting event coming back is special and it’s good for NASCAR to kind of kick things off' Pictured: race cars zoom past an empty grandstand on Sunday 
Several people who traveled to Darlington, South Carolina, to tailgate outside the race track or at other nearby locations are diehard fans whose Nascar season was unexpectedly uprooted by the coronavirus pandemic this year
Several people who traveled to Darlington, South Carolina, to tailgate outside the race track or at other nearby locations are diehard fans whose Nascar season was unexpectedly uprooted by the coronavirus pandemic this year 
Pictured: a group of Nascar fans tailgate in Darlington, South Carolina, near the Darlington Raceway to watch The Real Heroes 400 cup series race on Sunday
Pictured: a group of Nascar fans tailgate in Darlington, South Carolina, near the Darlington Raceway to watch The Real Heroes 400 cup series race on Sunday
Darlington Raceway remained closed to the public in Sunday as several Nascar drivers competed in The Real Heroes 400 cup series race
Darlington Raceway remained closed to the public in Sunday as several Nascar drivers competed in The Real Heroes 400 cup series race 
But this was the real thing, minus the full throng of supporters who attend each year. 
Tammy Gandy grew up around Darlington Raceway and remembers a time when the greats like Richard Petty would show up each year at her aunt's house for some homemade biscuits.
'He used to say there were none better,' Gandy said.
And the sun-baked crowds, none bigger in these parts. So after years of seeing the hubbub and hullabaloo that always led up to raceday, she laughed when asked to compare that to this year´s scene.
'It´s a bit weird,' she said. 'But we´re happy to be here for our track.'  
Raceway Grill held a watch party and patrons cheered, yelled and clapped when they heard the loud roar of engines. 
They played by the rules, too - picnic tables were appropriately spaced to comply with social distancing.
Some fans walked across the street to the track's perimeter fence simply to be as close as possible to the action.
'There's no doubt this shows the loyalty of NASCAR fans,' restaurant owner Tony Baird said. 'They didn't want to stay home for this.'
Baird told USA Today that people around the country were calling his business ahead of time an anticipation.
'People have been calling me for two weeks, from as far away as New York,' he said.
'People are tired of sitting at home and just want to get back to a sense of normalcy. For it to be the first sporting event coming back is special and it’s good for NASCAR to kind of kick things off.' 
Pictured: Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday amid the coronavirus pandemic
Pictured: Kevin Harvick celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday amid the coronavirus pandemic
Pictured:Alex Bowman , driver of the #88 ChevyGoods.com NOCO Chevrolet, walks pit road while wearing a protective face mask prior to the NASCAR Cup Series The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway
Pictured:Alex Bowman , driver of the #88 ChevyGoods.com NOCO Chevrolet, walks pit road while wearing a protective face mask prior to the NASCAR Cup Series The Real Heroes 400 at Darlington Raceway
Kyle Busch (picturd) waits for the start of the NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday while wearing a face mask
Kyle Busch (picturd) waits for the start of the NASCAR Cup Series auto race Sunday while wearing a face mask
A sign at Darlington Raceway displays a message thanking front-line workers Sunday, May 17, 2020, in Darlington, S.C. NASCAR, which has been idle since March 8 because of the coronavirus pandemic, makes its return with the Real Heroes 400 Nascar Cup Series auto race Sunday. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
A sign at Darlington Raceway displays a message thanking front-line workers Sunday, May 17, 2020, in Darlington, S.C. NASCAR, which has been idle since March 8 because of the coronavirus pandemic, makes its return with the Real Heroes 400 Nascar Cup Series auto race Sunday. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Crew members were also expected to wear face masks and attempt to practice social distancing while working during The Real Heroes 400 race on Sunday
Crew members were also expected to wear face masks and attempt to practice social distancing while working during The Real Heroes 400 race on Sunday
Baird plans to have similar setups for the Xfinity race Tuesday night and the second Cup race at the track on Wednesday night.
But, it clearly wasn't business as usual.
Parking fields typically packed with eager race fans were empty and the long rows of racing souvenir stands were missing from the track known for being 'Too Tough To Tame.'
Instead, the only tables set up to sell flags and T-shirts were ones for President Donald Trump-related merchandise.
There were checkered flags in place for more than a mile along the main road leading to the track as an electronic billboard flashed, 'NASCAR is Back at Darlington Raceway.'
'This is a different event,' Darlington Raceway president Kerry Tharp said. 'It's amazing how everyone (in NASCAR) came together to make it happen.'
Dennis Nobles of Aynor, a small town about an hour east of Darlington, wasn't going to let the no-fan ban stop him from attending. 
He was among a group of five who rolled up in a motor home at an RV park outside of the track's start-finish line and planned to soak in the atmosphere while watching on TV.
Nobles, 56, has been attending races at Darlington since the early 1980s and wanted to support the sport's return.
Other fans came from much farther away to take in NASCAR's first race since Joey Logano won at Phoenix on March 8.
John Holland, 53, flew in from Chicago and tailgated with friends at a home right across the street from the Raceway. 
He'd attended races at Chicagoland and Michigan in the past and didn't want to miss this one. Holland was set up with several friends from Darlington.
'This is something I´ll never forget,' he said. 
Start your engines! Nascar returns to empty grandstands as tracks remain closed amid coronavirus pandemic - but fans still turn up to cheer and tailgate outside(19 Pics) Start your engines! Nascar returns to empty grandstands as tracks remain closed amid coronavirus pandemic - but fans still turn up to cheer and tailgate outside(19 Pics) Reviewed by STATION GOSSIP on 02:17 Rating: 5

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