Coyne’s third team win both authoritative and rewarding for hard work

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Dale Coyne’s third win in his 30-year history as an IndyCar team owner was easily his most authoritative.

The first was the “oh mercy, Dale Coyne’s team actually won a race!” when Justin Wilson took the checkered flag at Watkins Glen International in 2009. Then, last year, Wilson pulled off a surprise win at Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval when Graham Rahal smacked the wall off Turn 4 in the final stages.

This Saturday in Detroit, Mike Conway came in off the streets, led 47 of 70 laps from second on the grid, and delivered a dominant victory in the No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda.

Not bad for a guy who was in his father’s vegetable garden in England last Sunday, when a certain 500-mile race was going on in Indianapolis…

“Well, yeah, Mark (Blundell, Conway’s manager) had a call from Dale, and spoke about possibly doing this weekend,” said Conway. “Yeah, I watched the first 10 laps of Indy. It looked good. I went away. I was in the garden helping my dad out with his vegetable garden. It was one of those kind of lazy Sundays.

“I watched the last 60 laps. It was really exciting and great to see all my friends out there. My father is quite the farmer. Horticulture; it’s in England. Then Monday, Tuesday, really got the heads up then, Tuesday lunchtime, it was all good to go. So amazing, yeah.”

When asked what the secret to Coyne’s team success, Conway chimed in, “British drivers.” Coyne gave an actual answer shortly thereafter.

“I just think it’s common sense, years of knowledge on everybody’s part,” Coyne said. “Our two engineers (Conway’s, John Dick, and Wilson’s, Bill Pappas) and myself, we’ve been doing this a long time.You know not to out-trick yourself. You remember things from the past that worked, think outside the box.

“We had a pretty aggressive engineering plan over the winter.  You put all those things together and I think it’s paid off well.”

Wilson, who gave Coyne the first two wins, was all too happy for his countryman and the team today.

“I think it’s just a really cool story how he didn’t think he was going to be doing anything this weekend and here he is winning the race,” said the lanky Englishman. “There’s been a lot of hard work by Dale and the guys.  Everyone has a lot to prove, that we were capable of winning at the front, trying to be more consistent, just working on every area.”

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.