CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Monaco Grand Prix was canceled.
The Indianapolis 500 is postponed until August.
Only the Coca-Cola 600 is still scheduled as planned.
The most celebrated day in motorsports has been whittled down to the third course, 600 miles around Charlotte Motor Speedway in NASCAR's longest race of the year. What began as the World 600 in 1959 became the nightcap to a spectacular day of automobile racing treasured by annually by fans.
The Sunday before Memorial Day begins in the French Riviera as Formula One races the streets of Monaco. The event was first run in 1929 and had been held every year since 1959 until the coronavirus pandemic wiped out a portion of F1's season this year.
Then it is on to Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the corner of Georgetown Road and 16th Street for the Indy 500. It started as the International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race in 1911, grew into "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" and has been held on Memorial Day weekend every year since 1946. Motorsports legend Roger Penske, in his first year as owner of both the famous track and the series, has postponed the race two months because of the pandemic.
It means NASCAR will be alone in the spotlight when the green flag drops for the 6 p.m. Cup Series race in suburban Concord, with Fox televising the main event after FS1 shows the 2 p.m. qualifying.
It's a spotlight NASCAR has made the most of since last Sunday. Using a tight health screening plan and aided by its close proximity to states with relaxed restrictions, NASCAR has already completed three races since returning from its 10-week shutdown.
The next one is a crown jewel event that doubles as an elaborate salute to the United States military. A flyover is scheduled before the action starts, fallen heroes are honored on each car during the dusk-to-dark race and Speedway Motorsports prides itself on productions that conclude with a fireworks spectacular.
The race itself is one of the most grueling of the season. It's almost always hot, the race is 100 miles longer than any other and it is a true battle of attrition. It's not always the most exciting event, and NASCAR has struggled over the years to find an aerodynamic package capable of producing compelling competition.
Still, drivers love this event, and many teams thrive in the challenge of tackling a 600-miler. They also respect what the Coca-Cola 600 has become over the past 61 years.
"I think for our hardcore fans and for the people that appreciate the history of NASCAR, the 600 is its own kind of animal and its own show," said 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. "For us in the sport and drivers especially, it's a big one and it's one we all want to win."
Even with rain disruptions, NASCAR had a good first week back at Darlington Raceway. Kevin Harvick got his first win of the season and the 50th of his Cup Series career in the start to the trilogy at the South Carolina track, and reigning Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin won for the third time at Darlington in NASCAR's first Wednesday race in 34 years.
Both Cup Series races at Darlington were compelling, and the finish of Thursday's second-tier Xfinity Series race came down to a last-lap battle that 25-year-old Chase Briscoe won over two-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch.
Now comes the 600, which often turns into green-flag runs during which cars are stretched into a long parade lap. Strategy, tire conservation and luck can factor into the race in a combination that often doesn't make for for good television.
That's the only viewing option, though, because spectators are not permitted, so NASCAR must hope the casual sports fan sticks with the racing. A snoozer of a race could spoil NASCAR's current high.
"It's the Coca-Cola 600, and you cannot change that," said Team Penske driver Joey Logano, the 2018 Cup Series champ. "It's a good race track, and it's going to be intense out there from lap one. It's 100% from lap one. We're hammer down every lap."
No one has excelled at Charlotte Motor Speedway like Truex, who has two wins, a second-place finish and a third in his past four 600s — a span in which he has led 625 of 1,200 laps.
He is winless so far this season, his second at Joe Gibbs Racing and first since crew chief Cole Pearn's startling offseason retirement, but Truex is heating up and grabbed a pair of top-10 finishes at Darlington.
He's confident there's been no slip under new crew chief James Small.
"I feel like we really picked up where we left off last year," Truex said of last year's seven-win season. "We're right there, and James is doing an awesome job."