NASCAR does its best endurance racing imitation with Chicago delays

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It seems hard to believe considering the official time of its race was 3 hours, 10 minutes and 56 seconds. But from when the scheduled green flag was supposed to take place for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway and when the checkered finally flew, it was nearly a 12-hour marathon.

The race was supposed to green shortly after 2:00 p.m. ET, 1:00 p.m. CT and local time. The first batch of rain and track-drying caused more than an hour delay before the initial green flag. Then of course, after 110 laps of racing, came the long delay of 5 hours, 10 minutes and 21 seconds before an eventual – and merciful – restart.

By that point in the night, past 10:00 p.m. ET and 9:00 p.m. CT, you wouldn’t blame the competitors, the media, or the fans who had stuck around through the delay for hoping that the race would run 24 or so more laps – to hit the half distance mark of 134 laps – and call it a night as an official day. Yet it was at that point the rain gods held off and the race ran to its conclusion, with several Chasers having issues and Joe Gibbs Racing’s pair of Chase-eligible Toyotas posting a 1-2 finish, led by Matt Kenseth.

The time was past midnight E.T. and 11:00 p.m. CT, and NASCAR had done an equivalent day to legendary 12 Hours of Sebring – except not racing for all 12 hours consecutively as they do in central Florida every March.

You don’t necessarily have the opportunity to appreciate endurance racing, and some of the competitions like Sebring, and like the 24-hour races in Daytona and Le Mans, from a casual NASCAR perspective until you see a day like today take place where it becomes a marathon thanks to adverse weather conditions.

And even so, 12 hours isn’t 12 hours because you have hours of pre-race festivities ahead of the race and all the post-race debrief afterwards.

It’s a very tired NASCAR press corps today, you’d imagine, and should realistically be a day of rest. The NASCAR community has earned it after the last week and a day.

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.