Bowyer blocks out controversy, opens Chase with Top-10 run

0 Comments

After a week in which he was grilled to a crisp with questions surrounding his role in Michael Waltrip Racing’s manipulation of the finish at Richmond International Raceway, Clint Bowyer started his 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup with a ninth-place finish last night at Chicagoland Speedway.

Bowyer’s spin with seven laps to go at Richmond eventually led to MWR teammate Martin Truex Jr. initially making the Chase, but after heavy penalties from NASCAR, Truex was knocked out of the post-season. However, those same penalties did not affect Bowyer’s own Chase standing.

Since Richmond, Bowyer has felt the wrath of many fans and media members, who are upset that he wasn’t removed from the Chase and have demanded that he admit his spin was intentional. But last night at Chicagoland, he got back to business in his No. 15 MWR Toyota, which must have felt like a sanctuary to him.

Bowyer had a sub-par qualifying session and started 24th, but quickly made his way up the pylon in what we’ll call the afternoon session of the GEICO 400. He moved into the Top 10 by the time rain began to fall once more upon the 1.5-mile oval at Lap 107.

The red flag then emerged at Lap 110, and stayed in effect for more than five hours before the race restarted under the lights. The cooler conditions – as well as a rash of cautions and restarts – had an initially negative effect on Bowyer’s machine, but he worked his way back into the Top 10 and was able to get past Ryan Newman with two laps left for his final result of ninth.

“The PEAK Antifreeze Toyota was pretty good tonight, but we struggled on restarts,” Bowyer said. “In the second half of the race, there were a lot of restarts. But ninth place isn’t too bad.

“We need single-digit finishes for ten weeks, so tonight was a good start. We’ll be better next week in New Hampshire. I love that place and we’ve won there before.”

Bowyer has won twice at the “Magic Mile,” but finished just 13th there this past summer after he was forced to pit late due to a rear tire going flat.

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

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
0 Comments

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.