MotorSportsTalk’s Predictions: Canadian GP

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The Canadian Grand Prix remains a firm favorite among the drivers, teams and entire Formula 1 paddock thanks to the party atmosphere provided by Montreal over the race weekend.

However, the real focus remains on the racing at one of the toughest races on the calendar given the close walls and high-speed straights that make up the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Nico Rosberg arrives in Montreal as the in-form driver after winning the last two races, but with Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton going in search of a fourth victory in Canada, the pressure will be on once again at the front of the field.

Once again, the MST team has put together its predictions for the coming weekend. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. Rosberg may have won the last two races, but it is Hamilton who should have the momentum even with his disappointment in Monaco. The British driver was on another planet that weekend, and could provide a similar display of dominance at one of his favorite circuits on Sunday.

Surprising FinishValtteri Bottas. Williams should be in far better shape this weekend, and even with Ferrari’s power upgrade, he could yet push the Italian team in the battle to complete the podium. Keep an eye out for him and teammate Felipe Massa in the race for the top five on Sunday.

Most to ProveFerrari. A harsh pick? Perhaps. But with all this talk of a power upgrade and a possible challenge to Mercedes, Ferrari needs to make good on the hype and push Hamilton and Rosberg hard for the race win.

Additional Storyline to WatchStrategy calls. After the debacle surrounding Hamilton and Mercedes in Monaco last time out, keep a close eye on the strategic calls that are made by both the driver and the team this weekend. With a 60% chance of a safety car, there will be extra pressure for both parties to get it right.

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race WinnerLewis Hamilton. Despite the Monaco strategic error that cost Lewis the race there, I think he bounces back nicely this week at a track where he has had a wealth of success.

Surprising FinishRomain Grosjean. Of the other teams with a Mercedes engine I could see “RoGro” making the most of things on this power-heavy circuit and delivering a solid finish. Perhaps a top five but likely in the sixth to seventh range is possible.

Most to ProveNico Rosberg. He has the momentum of back-to-back wins… can he continue this surge at a track where Lewis will be hungrier than ever to reassert himself back on the top step of the podium?

Additional Storyline to WatchDaniel’s defense. In a tough season for Red Bull, Montreal marks the first race where Daniel Ricciardo enters as the defending race winner. How will he handle all the additional media and focus on him having been the race winner 12 months ago?

Predict the Podium

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari

American Flat Track puts emphasis on fans in building 2020 schedule

American Flat Track
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American Flat Track put an emphasis on fans and feedback from other series while also acknowledging everything is tentative while hammering out its schedule for the 2020 season.

The 18-race schedule over nine weekends will begin July 17-18 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida, about 20 miles from AFT’s headquarters in Daytona Beach, Florida.

The dirt track motorcycle racing series, which is sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, shares a campus with its sister company, NASCAR, and American Flat Track CEO Michael Lock said the series closely observed how it’s handled races in its return during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and also built AFT’s procedures from NASCAR’s post-pandemic playbook of more than 30 pages.

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“I speak personally to the committee within NASCAR that has been put together for the restart, regularly talking to the communications people, general counsel and other relevant operations departments,” Lock told “So we’ve derived for Flat Track from NASCAR’s protocols, which I think are entirely consistent with all the other pro sports leagues that are attempting to return.

“Obviously with NASCAR the scale of the business is completely different. There were some times more people involved in the paddock and the race operations for NASCAR than the numbers of people at flat track. Our scale is much smaller, and our venues are generally smaller. So we can get our hands around all of the logistics. I think we’re very confident on that.”

While NASCAR has had just under 1,000 on site for each of its races without fans, Lock said American Flat Track will have between 400 to 500 people, including racers, crews, officials and traveling staff.

But another important difference from NASCAR (which will run at least its first eight races without crowds) is that American Flat Track intends to have fans at its events, though it still is working with public health experts and government officials to determine how many will be allowed and the ways in which they will be positioned (e.g., buffer zones in the grandstands).

Lock said capacity could will be limited to 30-50 percent at some venues.

American Flat Track will suspend its fan track walk, rider autograph sessions for the rest of the season, distribute masks at the gates and also ban paper tickets and cash for concessions and merchandise. Some of the best practices were built with input from a “Safe to Race Task Force” that includes members from various motorcycle racing sanctioning bodies (including Supercross and motocross).

There also will be limitations on corporate hospitality and VIP access and movement.

“I think everything the fans will see will be unusual,” Lock said. “Everything at the moment is unusual. We will roll out processes that are entirely consistent with the social distancing guidelines that will be in place at the time of the event. So we’re planning for a worst-case scenario. And if things are easier or better by the time we go to a venue, it’s a bonus.”

Lock said the restrictions are worth it because (unlike other racing series) AFT must have fans (even a limited number) for financial viability.

“We took a decision fairly early on in this process that it was neither desirable nor economically viable to run events without fans,” Lock said. “I can think of some big sports like NFL or like NASCAR where a huge chunk of that revenue is derived from broadcast, which means that your decision making as to how you run an event, where you can run an event has a different view than a sport like ours, or even like baseball, for example, that needs fans. Because the business model is so different.”

Broadcast coverage is important to American Flat Track, which added seven annual races over the past five years and can draw as many as 15,000 to its biggest events.

Lock said AFT ended the 2019 season with more than 50,000 viewers for each live event, making it the No. 1 property on FansChoice.TV. This year, the series has moved to TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. “We’re expecting a really strong audience from Day 1, particularly with all this pent-up demand,” Lock said.

NBCSN also will broadcast a one-hour wrap-up of each race (covering heat races and main events).

Because the season is starting three months late, the doubleheader weekends will allow AFT to maintain its schedule length despite losing several venues. And there could be more, Lock said, noting that there still are three TBA tracks.

“There may still be some surprises to come from one venue or another of delay or cancellation,” he said. “But we are intending to run as full a season as possible.”

Here is the American Flat Track schedule for 2020:

July 17-18 (Friday-Saturday): Volusia Speedway Park, Barberville, Florida

July 31-Aug. 1 (Friday-Saturday):  Allen County Fairgrounds, Lima, Ohio

Aug. 28-29 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Northeast United States

Sept. 5-6 (Saturday-Sunday): Illinois State Fairgrounds, Springfield, Illinois

Sept. 11-12 (Friday-Saturday): Williams Grove Speedway, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania

Sept. 25-26 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, Texas

Oct. 2-3 (Friday-Saturday): Dixie Speedway, Woodstock, Georgia

Oct. 9-10 (Friday-Saturday): TBA, North Carolina

Oct. 15-16 (Thursday-Friday): AFT season finale, Daytona Beach, Florida