UPDATED: Motorsports series races canceled or postponed by COVID-19

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to impact daily life, it’s brought worldwide motorsports to a halt.

Virtually every racing series in the world has ceased competition — several indefinitely – since the past weekend because of the global pandemic.

With the Centers for Disease Control recommending that events of more than 50 people be put on hold for eight weeks, it could leave more races in jeopardy with more news likely coming this week.

Here’s what several series and tracks have done with cancellations and postponements and what we know about what lies ahead with each:

IMSA: The Twelve Hours of Sebring has been postponed from the March 18-21 weekend to Nov. 11-14. Because it falls after the Petit Le Mans, Sebring will become the 2020 season finale for the sports car series (along with the Michelin Pilot Challenge and Prototype Challenge.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans, which has attracted some of IMSA’s best teams in the past and should become more of a crossover event in the future, has been postponed from June to Sept. 19-20.

Petit Le Mans slid back from Oct. 7-10 to Oct. 14-17. The Laguna Seca Raceway event was moved from Sept. 11-13 to Sept. 4-6 to accommodate the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The May 1-3 race weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has been postponed to Sept. 25-27.

IMSA’s next event is scheduled to be the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Raceway in Detroit on May 29-30.

INDYCAR: The first eight races of 2020 have been canceled or postponed, most notably the 104th Indianapolis 500 that has been moved to Aug. 23.

The GMR Grand Prix on Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course was moved to July 4 as the first doubleheader with a NASCAR event (the Xfinity Series race will follow IndyCar). The 2020 season will begin June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway with the cancellation of the Detroit Grand Prix.

Despite efforts to reschedule the Long Beach Grand Prix from April 17-19 to the fall, the race was canceled March 18. IndyCar’s season opener at St. Petersburg, Florida, will be made up at a date to be determined and becomes the season finale. Circuit of the Americas (which has been reduced to “limited use”) and Barber Motorsports Park won’t return to the schedule.

IndyCar also has banned testing through May 10.

MOTOGP: The Moto2 and Moto3 classes ran their season openers March 8 at the Qatar Grand Prix, but the premier division was canceled. MotoGP has yet to return to the track as the first nine races in the premier series have been canceled or postponed to later in the year, most recently Italy and Spain.

The Thailand Grand Prix was moved from March 22 to Oct. 4. The Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas, was shifted from April 5 to Nov. 15. The Argentina Grand Prix moved from April 19 to Nov. 22. The rescheduled races also forced the season finale at Valencia, Spain, to move from Nov. 15 to Nov. 29.

NASCAR: After running its first four races of the season, the Cup Series now has postponed the next seven races — Atlanta, Miami, Texas, Bristol, Richmond, Talladega and Dover.

It intends to restart the 2020 season with the May 9 race at Martinsville Speedway and reschedule the seven events to maintain the integrity of a 36-race schedule. No makeup dates have been set.

NASCAR also announced a full testing ban during the hiatus.

SUPERCROSS/MOTOCROSS: With 10 of 17 races completed, the 2020 season was postponed March 13. The series announced March 25 that the final seven events will be completed at dates and tracks to be finalized.

However, these seven races have been canceled: Indianapolis on March 14; Detroit on March 21; Seattle on March 28; Denver on April 4; Foxboro on April 18; Las Vegas on April 25 and May 2 at Salt Lake City.

The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships also has canceled its season opener, the Hangtown Nationals and reorganized the remainder of its 2020 schedule.

FORMULA ONE: The March 15 season opener in Australia was canceled, along with the Grand Prix of Monaco on May 24. The next five races (Bahrain, Vietnam, China, the Netherlands and Spain) have been postponed indefinitely. The June 7 grand prix in Azerbaijan also has been postponed, as has the June 14 race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

The season currently would begin June 28 with the French Grand Prix.

NHRA: The sanctioning body has suspended all drag racing events for the next 30 days and has shortened its 2020 schedule from 24 to 19 events while canceling the playoffs this season.

The season will resume June 5-7 with the 51st annual Gatornationals, which were rescheduled after a March 13-15 postponement.

WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP: After running its Feb. 23 race at Circuit of the Americas, the WEC canceled its March 20 event at Sebring International Raceway. Its next event is scheduled for April 25 at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

AMERICAN FLAT TRACK: The Daytona 200 was rescheduled from last weekend to October. The next race is scheduled to be March 28 in Woodstock, Georgia.

WORLD OF OUTLAWS: All races through April 18 have been postponed on Sprint Car Series’ spring tour of California. Another update is expected this week. The series also has postponed Dirt Late Models through next week.

PIKES PEAK INTERNATIONAL HILL CLIMB: The 98th running of the iconic event in Colorado has been moved from June 28 to Aug. 30.

FORMULA E: The series reportedly has suspended the next two months of its 2020-21 season.

DIRT TRACKS: Williams Grove Speedway has canceled programs for its second week after holdingits March 13 opening day, and other dirt tracks are following suit.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws

More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”