Stewart beats Montoya for first Cup win of 2013

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Tony Stewart reeled in and passed Juan Pablo Montoya with three laps remaining to win the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Raceway for his first Sprint Cup victory of 2013.

Montoya won the race off pit road after a caution period caused by a Denny Hamlin wreck with 24 laps to go, and was on the outside of Jimmie Johnson as the two prepared for a restart with 19 laps left. Johnson then appeared to have badly burned the former Indianapolis 500 winner on the restart as he pulled away, but NASCAR said Johnson jumped ahead of the Turn 4 acceleration zone and penalized the five-time Sprint Cup champion with a drive-through penalty.

“I was half-throttle the whole frontstretch and at some point, I gotta go,” Johnson told Fox Sports afterwards. “In this situation, NASCAR has the judgement to decide whether you jumped the start or not, but [Montoya was] not even going so I’m not if his car broke or was off-power…I’m running half-throttle down the frontstretch waiting for him and he never [came.]

“[Crew chief] Chad [Knaus] even told me on the radio that something had happened and I should just take off and not worry about it, and then we were called on it.”

At that point, it appeared Montoya would finally break through for his first Cup victory on an oval. But Stewart continued to eat into Montoya’s lead and with three laps left, he pulled off the race-winning pass on the outside lane.

“It’s been such a tough year,” Stewart said to Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “…We’ve let [our fans] down for a long time. Hopefully today, we’ll start building momentum back now.”

Montoya managed to hold on to second place over Jeff Gordon, who stretched his fuel and tires over the final 99 laps to get a third-place finish. Kyle Busch led 150 laps on the day but had to settle for fourth at the finish, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the Top-5 in a nice bounce-back effort for him.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.