Logano keeps up bid for Chase berth with runner-up finish

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Joey Logano had the car. He just didn’t have enough time.

But even though he was ultimately unable to reel in Kyle Busch in Sunday’s Advocare 500, “Sliced Bread” continued a timely hot streak that’s put him in position to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Sunday’s second-place finish marked Logano’s sixth consecutive Top-10 result. Before Atlanta, he had strung together finishes of eighth at Indianapolis, back-to-back sevenths at Pocono and Watkins Glen, a critical win at Michigan, and fifth at Bristol.

And with his Atlanta runner-up, Logano also moved up two spots to eighth in the Sprint Cup standings going into the final regular season race at Richmond this coming Saturday. He’s now 16 points up on 11th-place Jeff Gordon.

But while he was happy about his Chase outlook improving, Logano also felt he had an opportunity for a second 2013 win slip away from him in the final laps.

“I just needed five more laps for me to have a shot at it,” he said. “It’s just so frustrating when you’ve got the winning car and you don’t win.”

It could’ve been worse, however. A vibration on his car forced him to pit at Lap 102, which knocked him off-sequence with most of the leaders for a time.

But he was eventually able to get back on the normal strategy, and once he did, Logano kept toward the front even though he consistently lost track position on pit road throughout the night.

Indeed, with 36 laps remaining, Logano held the lead under caution when he entered the pits. But he came out third behind Busch and Ryan Newman.

Then came a late outbreak of cautions that set up multiple restarts, putting Logano at a further disadvantage.

He had rolled off third for a restart with 28 laps remaining, but was shuffled back to sixth by the time Jeff Burton and Austin Dillon got together in Turn 4 moments later to bring out another yellow.

These short spurts didn’t help Logano, who had a better car in longer stints. He showed as much in the final run under green; with six laps to go, he got past Kurt Busch for third, and three laps later, he dusted Martin Truex, Jr. for his eventual runner-up position.

With a few more laps, Logano would’ve likely been dueling Busch for the win. But in terms of the big picture, Sunday was still a great night for him.

“Second sucks, but we can’t be too mad about it,” Logano said, perfectly summing things up.

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.