How NASCAR drivers are spending their time off and fighting the spread of COVID-19

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NASCAR drivers like to go fast, but social distancing practices and North Carolina’s stay-at-home order have forced them to slow down to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. For longtime Cup Series drivers, “time off” is an unprecedented concept.

“It’s really like my first-ever offseason,” Kyle Larson said. “I always stay busy racing, so this is the first time I can’t race.”

Since the NASCAR season was officially postponed three weeks ago, however, many drivers, including Larson, have migrated to their at-home simulator rigs since the sanctioning body is embracing its iRacing counterpart with weekly virtual races.

With FOX committed to broadcasting the iRaces, and its audience growing — over 1.3 million viewers across FOX and FS1 tuned in to watch last Sunday’s race at virtual Texas Motor Speedway — competition is intensifying for the 35-driver field, which means drivers are spending more time practicing on the video game.

“I probably race five times a day right now,” William Byron said. “Every two hours there’s a race, so that’s a lot of time. About 10 hours a day, but there’s nothing else going on.”

Beyond iRacing, though, there are other ways drivers are utilizing their time under quarantine.


— Home improvement

Housework has been a productive theme among drivers in NASCAR’s top series. Bubba Wallace, for example, spent the weekend cleaning out his garage before Sunday’s iRace, which led him to a “freaky” discovery.

“I’d seen a couple of dead spiders, and I’m like, ‘Man, that’s a really big spider,’ ” Wallace said. “ ‘Oh, wait, that’s not a spider. What in the world is that?’ ”

Wallace posted a picture of the sandy-looking creature on Twitter, calling on his “critter peeps” to help him identify it. The tweet received nearly 2,000 likes, 700 replies and a name for the insect: the mole cricket.

“I think they’re harmless,” Wallace said. “They said they kill your grass, so (I’ll) definitely get an exterminator out here to get that taken care of because if I have one then I probably have more.”

Wallace isn’t the only one entertaining fans with home improvement project updates. Kyle Busch and his wife, Samantha, embarked on painting their basement on Monday. Samantha provided a summary of the process on Twitter.

“Me: OMG let’s paint the whole basement! It will be so much fun we will be like an @HGTV show!” Samantha’s tweet read. The text was followed by a series of emojis that transitioned from a smiling face in the first hour to a head exploding emoji and two cursing faces by the seventh hour.

“Kyle: told you,” read the end of the tweet. “Moral of story scuffing baseboards n trim sucks so not like on TV.”


— Family time

The Busch family is one of the many who are documenting life together on social media. Kyle and Samantha have posted videos of their 4-year-old son, Brexton, successfully riding a bike and serving as his dad’s unofficial crew chief during Sunday’s race.

Other drivers, such as Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski, have posted videos with their young children as well. Bonding time activities across the NASCAR community include movie-watching, outdoor activities, drawing and homework help.

“As I add school teacher to my resume, I’m reminded (how) much I despise math word problems … even at the 3rd grade level,” seven-time Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson tweeted last week.

Reigning Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin identified with Johnson. Hamlin has a 7-year-old daughter, Taylor. Johnson has two daughters, Lydia (7) and Genenvieve (10).

“You should see me on Google as I’m trying to figure out how many vertices are in a rectangular prism.” Hamlin tweeted back. “It’s like I’m going back to school all over again. #girldadTEACHER.”


— COVID-19 response

Although NASCAR drivers have remained relatively insulated from the strain of the coronavirus (so far, no drivers have a confirmed case), the community is doing its part to aid in efforts to slow the spread.

Team Penske drivers Keselowski and Joey Logano have individually committed to helping meet the needs of the healthcare industry.

Keselowski said his company, Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing, is working with groups to produce face shields following a national shortage of N95 face masks. Logano has established a one million dollar COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund through his foundation and Elevation Outreach.

“Right now, the world is experiencing a situation like we’ve never seen before,” Logano said. He added that the foundation “will help provide funding and necessary supplies for organizations in need during this scary time.”

In addition to funding for medical supplies, that money will go toward educational access, food distribution and financial shortages throughout North Carolina and communities across the country.


— Finally, Tiger King. Always Tiger King.

In an attempt to escape today’s wild reality, many Americans have turned to a wilder one on their television screens: the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King.” NASCAR drivers are no exception.

“What do I start first on Netflix, Tiger King or Ozark season 3?” Larson tweeted.

He went with Tiger King.

“Update: Calling it a night after 3 episodes of Tiger King,” Larson posted just after midnight on Tuesday. “Entertaining so far but extremely weird. Starting to enjoy it more now that we’re into the murder mystery. Carole definitely made Don disappear.”

Wallace also watched the show, but mainly as a last-resort option.

“At the end of the day, you start running out of ideas,” Wallace said. “It’s like, OK, I can only take so many naps before that gets boring. I can only watch so many TV shows. I can only watch so much Tiger King. Although I only watched 30 seconds of that and I was like, ‘This is ridiculous.’ ”

“But all in all, I’m just trying to keep it fun, keep it lighthearted.”


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