NASCAR and IndyCar both postpone racing over virus concerns

NASCAR and IndyCar reversed course Friday and pulled the plug on racing this weekend, with IndyCar also suspending its season through the end of April due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

NASCAR called off Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and next weekend’s events at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Both events were already scheduled to be run without spectators.

IndyCar was scheduled to open its season Sunday on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg without fans. Formula One also cancelled its season opening race in Australia, leaving the first full weekend of global motorsports without a major event.

Mark Miles, president and CEO of IndyCar parent company Penske Enterprises, said the about-face came as both IndyCar and NASCAR saw more and more events and attractions closing. He cited the cancellation mid-tournament of The Players Championship and the closure of theme parks as indicators public gatherings should not proceed.

“There’s a public health risk any time people are getting together,” Miles said. “Really, there isn’t a sporting event left that feels comfortable running even without fans. … We just felt like it was the right thing to do to not allow the opportunity for the racers to go racing here.”

It takes six to eight weeks to build a street course, which shuts down large portions of the host city. It is unlikely that St. Petersburg can host the event later this year because of the permits required. Miles also said the Grand Prix of Long Beach, scheduled for April 19, was officially cancelled for 2020.

It was unknown what will happen to races in Birmingham, Alabama, and at Circuit of the Americas in Texas, two of the four April races cancelled Friday by IndyCar.

“From our perspective, our hope, our ambition, our plan is to restart in May and to get

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Bahrain and Vietnam GPs off because of coronavirus outbreak

PARIS — The Bahrain and Vietnam Grand Prix races were postponed Friday because of the coronavirus outbreak, the third and fourth races of the Formula One season to be called off.

Bahrain was scheduled for next week — at an empty track — and the inaugural Vietnamese GP in Hanoi on April 5.

Governing body FIA said in a statement that it will consider “the viability of potential alternative dates” later this year for Bahrain and Vietnam “should the situation improve.”

The season could start in the Netherlands, at the Zandvoort track outside Amsterdam, on May 3.

“But given the sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Europe in recent days, this will be regularly reviewed,” the FIA said.

The season-opening Australian GP in Melbourne was called off as thousands of fans queued to get in for Friday’s first practice session, while teams and drivers were packing up to leave.

“Formula 1, the FIA and the promoters have taken these decisions in order to ensure the health and safety of the travelling staff, championship participants and fans, which remains our primary concern,” the FIA said in a statement Friday.

The Dutch GP returned to this year’s calendar after last hosting a race at Zandvoort in 1985. The 22-race calendar for 2020 featured Vietnam’s eagerly-awaited F1 debut.

“This has been a very difficult decision to reach,” Vietnam’s GP Corporation said in a statement. “Our thoughts go out to all those directly and indirectly affected by the current coronavirus situation, as well as those for whom this announcement will be a disappointment as they looked forward to an exciting inaugural race.”

The Chinese GP in Shanghai scheduled for April 19 was postponed on Feb 12.

There have been more than 128,000 cases and 4,700 deaths globally since the virus outbreak started late last

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French football season suspended ‘until further notice’

Rennes’ French midfielder Flavien Tait (C) vies with Montpellier’s French defender Junior Sambia during the French Ligue 1 football match between Stade Rennais and Montpellier, at the Roazhon Park stadium in Rennes, northwestern France on March 8, 2020. (Photo by Damien Meyer / AFP)

The French football season has been suspended “until further notice” because of the coronavirus outbreak, the LFP, which runs the elite Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, announced on Friday.

In a statement, the league said it had taken a “unanimous” decision to stop playing with immediate effect at an emergency meeting on Friday, having previously said games would continue to be played behind closed doors until mid-April.

Covid-19 has already killed 61 people and infected almost 2,900 in France, according to official statistics.

The move came after French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday announced that schools in France would close indefinitely to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and urged people over 70 and the infirm to stay home.

“As the president of the republic stressed yesterday, the collective interest must be placed above all else. The urgency today is to curb the epidemic, protect the most vulnerable and avoid travel,” the league said in a statement.

The move means France follows other leading European leagues in closing down the season, with all sport in Italy stopped until early April and the next two rounds of matches in La Liga in Spain postponed.

In addition, the Dutch and Swiss domestic leagues have been put on hold until the end of the month, while Portugal has announced its top two divisions will be suspended “indefinitely”.

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