NASCAR industry steps up to produce PPE’s in COVID-19 crisis

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The five 3D printers at NASCAR’s Research & Technology centre — two delivered in February and installed less than two weeks ago — are typically focused on composite parts and working on an updated stock car.

But when racing came to a stop March 13 amid the coronavirus pandemic, a handful of NASCAR engineers wondered if the printers could be used to address the shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers. They contacted suppliers and came up with designs for face shields the printers could make. They met with Novant Health, which serves medical facilities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Now the printers are running 18 hours a day with approximately eight engineers volunteering their time to oversee production from approximately 7 a.m. until midnight every day. The newest printer, about the size of an outdoor shed, can print three face shields every 2 1/2 hours.

“That’s the one we try to keep running almost nonstop,” Eric Jacuzzi, senior director of NASCAR’s aerodynamics and vehicle performance, told The Associated Press. “We have people that are actually having their teenage children help with cutting the clear facial part as part of their volunteer work at home, six of us running the machines, and more people reaching out to help.”

NASCAR is donating the face shields as part of the charitable community acts the series does every year. The sanctioning body has followed Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota — NASCAR’s three manufacturers — as companies from the automotive industry that have pivoted production to PPE during the global crisis.

Ford this week said beginning in April it will work with GE Healthcare to build air-pressured ventilators, with a target of manufacturing 50,000 units in the next 100 days from a Michigan components plant. Ford is also

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iRacing is fun but won’t carry teams for long

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Virtual racing has been the small saving grace for motorsports since the coronavirus pandemic brought nearly everything to a halt.

Timmy Hill’s iRacing victory on national television gave the journeyman driver and his sponsors exposure they would never receive during a normal NASCAR weekend.

“What I’ll gain from this is recognition. It’s hard to get that recognition because of the level of competition that we are in real life,” said Hill, who at 27 has bounced around NASCAR’s three national series since 2011 before making his first Daytona 500 this year.

“We just don’t have the money, the dollars, to compete at a high level. Every once in a while we’ll get that big payday and we can really reinvest in our race team,” he said. “This win will hopefully gain some recognition and attract more sponsors for us, maybe in the real world when we get back racing. Hopefully it will help me in the real world.”

The real world looks grim right now: Racing and revenue have come to a halt and it is unknown what the landscape will even look like when the crisis ends.

IndyCar suspended its season 48 hours before it was set to open, and last week new series owner Roger Penske made t he unprecedented decision to delay the Indianapolis 500 from Memorial Day weekend for the first time in its long and storied history.

Penske’s transportation business has been hit and he informed Penske Corp.’s 60,000 employees over the weekend that both he and the company president would forego their salaries while senior leadership be paid less. Roughly 50 employees from IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway were laid off.

NASCAR has so far cut salaries for its executives by 25% — that includes the presidents of tracks owned by

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Timmy Hill virtual winner of NASCAR’s live iRacing event

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead sang the national anthem from a remote location. Troy Aikman, borrowing Matthew McConaughey’s trademark phrase “Alright, alright, alright,” commanded drivers to start their, uh, simulators.

NASCAR’s new normal resumed Sunday with another virtual event, the second in an iRacing series thrown together after the coronavirus pandemic stopped nearly all sports. NASCAR’s 36-race season was suspended four events into the year.

Timmy Hill won the virtual race at Texas Motor Speedway, where a highlight came when Daniel Suarez was parked by iRacing officials for intentionally trying — but failing — to crash Ty Dillon.

Hill is considered among the top competitors in iRacing, a subscription-based gaming platform. His virtual victory was his 674th in the game.

Fox Sports again used its team of Mike Joy and Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon to call the race, which was aired both on Fox in some markets and nationwide on its cable channel.

The first iRacing event last Sunday drew 903,000 viewers to Fox Sports One and was the most watched esports event in U.S. history, bettering the 770,000 viewers Mortal Combat drew to The CW in 2016. That led Fox to offer affiliates the option to air the Texas virtual race on broadcast.

Those who tuned in watched a live video game of 35 NASCAR racers competing at an exact replica of Texas Motor Speedway, where the series was scheduled to be Sunday before the coronavirus shutdown. Fox was able to obtain feeds of drivers racing on simulators everywhere from their bedrooms, basements, garages and, in the case of last week’s winner, Denny Hamlin’s living room.

Clint Bowyer was the in-race reporter again, but when the booth cut to him to ask about an early race incident, he gave a quick update and shooed

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