Folds of Honor CEO Dan Rooney is thinking about the missed opportunity that is NASCAR’s cancellation of Sunday’s Cup Series race at Atlanta.
The nonprofit is the co-sponsor of the race alongside gas station and convenience store chain QuikTrip. NASCAR was set to run the race without fans in attendance until Friday when it announced that the race, along with the following weekend’s race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, would be postponed amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Rooney told the Tulsa World that Sunday was set to be the “biggest day of the year” for the nonprofit that gives scholarships to the family members of fallen or disabled military members. And he was looking forward to NASCAR being one of the only sporting events running over the weekend as most every other league had suspended its seasons before NASCAR did.
“You have to stay the course and ride out the uncertainty of this,” Rooney said. “It’s the biggest day of the year for Folds of Honor with four hours live on FOX Sports. Not to have that opportunity is really tough.
“But Folds is in a great place. In the spirit of America, we have to weather the storm that everybody is in right now. We’re certainly not unique and hopefully these actions will slow down the spread of the virus, which is the intent that everyone is doing. We’ll break the cycle of this thing and be out of it hopefully sooner rather than later.”
Folds of Honor has raised millions upon millions of dollars and has given out over 20,000 scholarships. It makes a great impact. And it’s true that Sunday’s race — had it been run — would have been a viewership bonanza for NASCAR. With Americans holed up in their houses because of the spread of the virus and no other sporting events taking place, NASCAR was in a position to capitalize on a barren sports landscape.
Thankfully, common sense prevailed. While running the race without fans was a step in the right direction, NASCAR would have been entering the race weekend not knowing if anyone who works or drives for a team had the virus. And with the close proximity of teams from three series of NASCAR working around each other there was an incredibly good chance of the virus spreading throughout those who work in NASCAR even if it was unknowingly.
We’ve learned a lot over the last three days. NASCAR and its race sponsors clearly have too. While the NBA quickly suspended the season after Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 and other leagues followed suit, NASCAR waited until the day practices were set to begin to make a decision. And by waiting, it might have unnecessarily exposed those who traveled to Atlanta to the coronavirus strain along the way.
But better late than never. And while Rooney may think it’s tough, it’s the right decision. Maybe NASCAR will reschedule the Atlanta race in the middle of the week during the summer and Folds of Honor will get more attention than it would have on a normal Sunday.
Ah, a normal Sunday. Hopefully we can get back to them soon.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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