IMSA releases entry list, schedule for iRacing’s Saturday at Sebring

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IMSA has released the official entry list for Saturday’s virtual stand-in for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (rescheduled to Nov. 11-14 because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic).

IMSA’s Sebring SuperSaturday on iRacing will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday with a 50-car field of real-world drivers from IndyCar and various sports car series.

The 90-minute race will be streamed live on the iRacing eSports Network on YouTube and iRacing’s Twitch channel, with pre- and postrace from the Torque Show on Facebook Live. IMSA Radio’s John Hindhaugh will be part of the broadcast.

Drivers will have a choice between racing four cars from the GT division of the WeatherTech Series Championship on the 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway: Porsche 911 RSR, BMW M8 GTE, Ford GT and Ferrari 488 GTE.

Click here for the entry list in the “SuperSaturday” at Sebring International Raceway.

There are several IndyCar veterans in the race, including Colton Herta. The Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport driver who had two victories in his No. 88 Honda as a 2019 rookie in the NTT Series. Herta also was part of the BMW team that won the 2019 GTLM class in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’m looking forward to racing this weekend,” Herta, who will drive the No. 23 BMW in the online race, said in a release. “It’s always exciting to go up against everyone, no matter the circumstances. Like many things right now, racing is coming to a stop at the minute. So I think this will help propel interest and hopefully give people an outlet to watch some form of motorsport.”

He will be joined by fellow 2019 IndyCar rookie Santino Ferrucci, who drives the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan and will be driving the No. 18 BMW in iRacing.

IndyCar drivers Dalton Kellett and Sage Karam also are in the online event, which will include seven drivers who have won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Joao Barbosa, the 2015 winner, will drive the No. 5 Ferrari 488 GTE, and last year’s overall winner, Felipe Nasr, will pilot the No. 31 BMW M8 GTE. Richard Westbrook, who won the GT class in 2013 at Sebring, will be in a Ford Mustang.

Four past GTD winners are in the online race. Jeff Segal (2016) will drive the No. 69 Ferrari; Jeroen Bleekemolen (2017) is piloting a Porsche 911 RSR; Corey Lewis (2018) is in the No. 39 BMW, and Mirko  Bortolotti (2019) will drive the No. 888 Porsche.

There are 11 IMSA champions in the field, including Barbosa and Nasr from the top divisions. Other champions: Filipe Albuquerque, Segal, Westbrook, Bleekemolen, Mark Wilkins, Michael Lewis, Stevan McAleer, Roman De Angelis and Ryan Hardwick.

Frenchman Tristan Vautier, a veteran of IndyCar who scored consecutive Sebring pole positions in GTD and Prototype in 2017-18, also is in the race, driving the No. 85 BMW.

Here’s the schedule for Sebring SuperSaturday (all times ET):

1:30-2:30 p.m. – The Torque Show iRacing Pre-Race Show – Facebook Live

2:30-4 p.m. – IMSA Sebring SuperSaturday on iRacing – iRacing eSports Network on YouTube, Twitch

4 p.m. – The Torque Show – iRacing Post-Race Show – Facebook Live

7:30 p.m. – The Torque Show – NBCSN Preview

NBCSN, which has been broadcasting IMSA races since last season, will show a one-hour highlight show of the 2019 Twelve Hours of Sebring at 8 p.m. ET Saturday. It was the closest overall finish in the race’s 67-year history.

Fans are encouraged to use the #IMSASuperSaturday hashtag to discuss the race on social media.

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