Autistic children and their families to enjoy day at the races in Dover

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Encounter the world of NASCAR and you’ll receive a sensory overload – the bright colors of the cars, the smell of the burning rubber, the sounds of crowds and engines roaring. Unfortunately, for young children affected by autism, such a scenario can simply be too much to bear.

But for this weekend’s NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway, the track is doing its part to help those children enjoy the experience of live racing in an environment that’s friendly for them. The “Monster Mile” is expected to host more than 300 autistic kids and their families in a climate-controlled seating area along the backstretch. There will also be dedicated quiet zones available, allowing families to provide a safe place for their children away from the action if necessary.

“That’s part of the idea here: To have an environment where people on the spectrum can sit comfortably and enjoy racing – whereas outside, with the amount of noise and interaction with the elements, they might not be able to,” Dover vice president of sales and marketing Mark Rossi told National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.”

NASCAR and autism awareness group Autism Speaks first began the “Day at the Races” rally last year at Dover, and this year, multiple drivers and team owners will visit the youngsters before Sunday’s 400-mile Sprint Cup race. Autism educators will also make brief presentations as part of the proceedings.

Autism Speaks board member Artie Kempner, who also serves as a coordinating director on NASCAR television broadcasts and has a child on the autistic spectrum, has praised Dover’s efforts to reach out to those affected by the disorder.

“Just to bring an autistic kid out to a typical race with all the noise and stimuli would be enormously difficult,” Kempner told HealthDay. “But the environment created at Dover addressed that anxiety and took it out of the equation. It’s a controlled and welcoming and comfortable space, surrounded by parents who have seen it all and staffed by incredibly supportive people — right down to the drivers themselves, who were actually really excited and impressed by the whole thing.”

Recent studies have shown that 1 in 88 American children is on the autistic spectrum.

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.