IMSA: Cameron leads Team Penske to 1-2 finish at Laguna Seca

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Dane Cameron lead Acura Team Penske to a 1-2 finish in the Monterey SportsCar Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Sunday afternoon, leading teammate Helio Castroneves to the checkered flag by a margin of nearly 10 seconds.

The 1-2 finish is the 90th sports car victory for the legendary team, and it came in the team’s 200th start.

Castroneves’ co-driver Ricky Taylor started the race from the pole position and led early on, but eventually lost the lead to Cameron on lap 42.

When Taylor handed the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 over to Castoneves, the gap between the two Penske entries grew to nearly 20 seconds, as the three-time Indy 500 winner went off-course on his out lap.

Though Castoneves was able to slowly bridge the gap between the Penske entries, Cameron continued to hold on a healthy lead, and easily scored the victory.

The win was the third of the season for Cameron and co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya, and they were able to extend their championship lead to 12 points over Whelen Engineering Racing’s duo of Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani, who finished the race in the third position.

LMP2: PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports scores fifth consecutive victory

Matt McMurry and Dalton Kellett easily took the top honors in LMP2, taking the No .52 Oreca 07 Gibson to victory lane for the fifth consecutive race, winning by one lap over the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry of Cameron Cassels and Kyle Masson.

“It’s been the perfect weekend,” McMurry told NBC Sports. “The car has been great all year.

“I just got to say thanks to the team and all of the co-drivers I’ve worked with this season. Everyone has done a fantastic job.”

GTLM: Hand, Mueller reach score first victory in over a year

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s duo of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller scored their first class victory since Lime Rock in 2018, with the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE of Jesse Krohn and John Edwards finishing second after starting the race from the pole position.

Mueller took the lead early on in the race when Krohn lost drive coming out of Turn 1 on Lap 1. He continued to remain in the lead until the first round of pit stops approximately an hour into the race, ceding the lead to Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R.

With the Corvettes on a different pit strategy than the rest of the GTLM field, the No. 3 had to come in for its final stop with roughly 40 minutes remaining in the race.

Thus, the No. 66 Ford – now with Hand behind the wheel – took the lead back when Garcia made his stop. Hand continued to pace the field through the checkered flag.

Garcia and co-driver Jan Magnussen rounded out the GTLM podium.

GTD: Lewis, Sellers claim first victory of season

After winning the GTD pole Saturday afternoon, Corey Lewis led early on in Sunday’s race before making handing over driving duties to co-driver Bryan Sellers on lap 40.

Sellers easily led through the checkered flag, defeating Toni Vilander in the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 shared with Cooper MacNeil by over a half a minute.

“Today was a great day,” Sellers told NBC Sports. “When you look at how our race unfolded, it was a perfect team day.

“Corey put in a great stint. The car was fantastic.”

Andy Lally and John Potter rounded out the GTD podium. finishing third in the No. 44 Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship now heads to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the final race of the 2019 season, the Motul Petit Le Mans. Live race coverage begins Saturday, October 12 at 12 p.m. ET on NBC. 

Click here for full race results

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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 NBCSports.com. “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