Fast Nine shootout set for Indy 500 pole

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The final battle for the Indianapolis 500 pole will be an all-Chevrolet affair.

The “Bowtie Brigade” has taken charge of Pole Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with all five Andretti Autosport drivers (Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, E.J. Viso, Ryan Hunter-Reay), all three Team Penske drivers (Will Power, Helio Castroneves and A.J. Allmendinger), and owner/driver Ed Carpenter set to go for the pole at 6:30 p.m. ET. Those drivers will only get one qualifying attempt each in the Fast Nine showdown.

The fastest Honda belonged to Alex Tagliani of Barracuda-BHA, who will start 11th on Race Day in the middle of Row 4.

Will Power’s (pictured) average of 228.844 miles per hour was more than enough to claim the top spot before the Fast Nine, with Hunter-Reay’s speed of 228.282 good for second and Munoz’s speed of 228.171 good for third in that period.

The final hour of qualifying saw some dramatic bumping as drivers aimed to lock themselves into the Top 24. In the end, the big heroes were NBC Sports Network’s own Townsend Bell for Panther Racing and James Jakes of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, who both made the show in the final 10 minutes on their third and last attempts of the day.

Bell qualified 20th on his first attempt, but that was scratched in a bid to better his position. Unfortunately for him, the second attempt was slow enough to take him out of the field. But with 8:45 to go, Bell took the green flag on his third attempt and recovered the speed, posting a average of 225.643 mph — and knocking out Jakes and putting Josef Newgarden on the bubble.

The proverbial ball was then in Jakes’ court, and the British driver took the green for his final attempt with less than four minutes to go. Jakes, whose first attempt was disqualified, put together a solid run of 225.809 mph across his four laps to knock out Newgarden, who could only watch as he was in the qualifying line behind multiple cars.

Also making the field late was Ryan Briscoe, who won the Indy pole last year with Team Penske but had to scrap to make the Top 24 today with Chip Ganassi Racing. Still, Briscoe made it in with an average of 225.265 mph on his final attempt.

Michel Jourdain Jr. was the final qualifier at the 6 p.m. end time, but was not fast enough to get into the field, allowing Simona de Silvestro to stay at the 24th position.

Indianapolis 500

Pole Day Results (6 p.m. ET — Top 24)

1. 12-Will Power, 228.844 mph

2. 1-Ryan Hunter-Reay, 228.282

3. 26-Carlos Munoz, 228.171

4. 3- Helio Castroneves, 227.975

5. 20-Ed Carpenter, 227.952

6. 25-Marco Andretti, 227.893

7. 2-A.J. Allmendinger, 227.761

8. 5-E.J. Viso, 227.612

9. 27-James Hinchcliffe, 227.493

10. 4-J.R. Hildebrand, 227.441

11. 98-Alex Tagliani, 227.386

12. 11-Tony Kanaan, 226.949

13. 22-Oriol Servia, 226.814

14. 19-Justin Wilson, 226.370

15. 7-Sebastien Bourdais, 226.196

16. 9-Scott Dixon, 226.158

17. 10-Dario Franchitti, 226.069

18. 14-Takuma Sato, 225.892

19. 83-Charlie Kimball, 225.880

20. 16-James Jakes, 225.809

21. 77-Simon Pagenaud, 225.674

22. 60-Townsend Bell, 225.643

23. 8-Ryan Briscoe, 225.265

24. 78-Simona de Silvestro, 225.226

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward 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.