Penske’s IndyCar leader comments easier said than done

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Roger Penske has been in racing, specifically open-wheel racing, long enough to know how frequently the series’ leadership structure changes.

Penske told Autosport this week that IndyCar needs to follow NASCAR’s standard set in terms of leadership.

“We’ve never had a strong enough leader as they do in NASCAR,” Penske said. “They say, ‘Hey, guys, here’s the rules, here’s how we’re going to race. Guess what? If you don’t like it you can park your car outside and sit in the stands.’ And that’s what we need. We need some leadership. And I think that we can develop that as we go forward over the next 12 months.”

Compared to NASCAR, which the France family has ruled since the series’ inception in 1948, IndyCar has had a revolving door of presidents and CEOs.

IndyCar has not named a permanent replacement for its departed CEO Randy Bernard, the head of the series from 2010 to 2012. Mark Miles, the new head of IndyCar parent company Hulman & Co., attended his first race outside the Indianapolis 500 last weekend at St. Petersburg.

The long standing perception in IndyCar has been one where the team owners, not a head of state, run the series. The perception was reality in the CART era, when team owners helped to create the series and later served on its board of directors.

When CART as an entity folded at the end of 2003, it was a group of team owners that purchased the remaining assets to create the Champ Car World Series, which lasted through 2007 before its acquisition by IndyCar.

The owners, collectively, hold more power in IndyCar than do the same owners in NASCAR or even Formula 1. Both have dominant leaders at the top, and it’s with that premise that Penske’s comments are easier said than done in IndyCar.

Jack Miller wins MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his points slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.