Excellent season for Justin Wilson continues with two Houston top-fives

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Yet again, Justin Wilson has delivered a pair of excellent results for Dale Coyne Racing, and yet again, it feels as though his achievements have been vastly overlooked.

Third in Saturday’s Race 1 and fourth in Sunday’s Race 2 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader, the 17th and 18th races of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series, made it four straight top-fives and six straight top-10s for the lanky Englishman in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda.

“All in all, it was a great weekend with two top-fives,” Wilson said in a release after Sunday’s race. “Obviously, thinking of Dario and the fans, hope all are ok.”

Prior to Race 1, Wilson was caught out by the red flag in his qualifying group and so he started only 14th. Despite an early race flat tire, Wilson recovered admirably with a series of passes and good strategy called by engineer Bill Pappas.

He began sixth in Race 2 after the grid was set by entrant points entering the weekend. During the race, Wilson jumped to fourth early and stayed there for most of the remainder of the day even as nine full-course yellows interrupted the flow of the race.

Wilson described the track change from Saturday’s race to Sunday’s: “The track today was pretty good-it started out pretty slick but as it rubbered up, the grip got better and it got very fast. We were pushing harder and harder, every lap. It was a lot of fun, but it certainly feels like there are more bumps on day two! It’s physical, it’s tough. I want to thank everyone on the Boy Scouts of America team – we had great pit stops, strategy, and a great car. I’m pleased to be back in the top-five again.”

The driver of the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda is now fourth in the championship heading into the season finale. Wilson twice finished second in the Champ Car standings, in 2006 and 2007, but has yet to better ninth since Champ Car ended and Wilson’s career under the INDYCAR banner began.

“I’m looking forward to Fontana, we were good at the test. I think there is more to come,” added Wilson. “We will go there looking for the same kind of result. We want to go out there and attack and who knows, maybe come out of there with another win.”

Prior to Fontana, Wilson is also participating in the Dempsey Challenge, a bicycle tour and run/walk event designed to raise both cancer awareness and funds for The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing, on October 12 and 13. Wilson ran with the Dempsey Challenge logo at Baltimore. The donation page is linked here.

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.