Keselowski, Logano make Penske front row for Phoenix

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The Team Penske tandem of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will lead the Sprint Cup field to the green flag on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway after taking the top two spots in the second and final round of knock-out qualifying.

Keselowski posted a lap of 25.828 seconds in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford, narrowly nipping Logano’s best lap of 25.850 seconds. Logano was fastest in Round One, which saw the 12 fastest drivers go into the ten-minute final round (those 12 competitors had their Round One times reset).

“I’m really proud of Team Penske – they put a lot of effort into being the best we can here after a long 2013 and I think we did a heck of a job,” Keselowski told Motor Racing Network afterwards.

“Both cars 1-2? That’s a heck of an effort and something I’m very proud of for both Joey and the 22 team and obviously my team here on the 2 car…That’s a good start, now we’ve got to make the most of it come Sunday.”

Jamie McMurray and Jimmie Johnson will roll off from Row 2, followed by Daytona 500 champion and points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle in Row 3.

Rookie Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch are in Row 4, Aric Almirola and Kurt Busch are in Row 5, and Kasey Kahne and Denny Hamlin are in Row 6.

The session featured one incident in Round One involving Justin Allgaier, who crashed in Turn 3.

“I had a good lap going there and unfortunately, I got down into [Turn] 3 and it started to get away,” the Sprint Cup rookie told Fox. “I tried to save it as much as I could but unfortunately here at Phoenix, there’s not a whole lot of room to get out of trouble. It was my mistake – I was trying to get too much from that lap there.”

Josh Wise, Landon Cassill, and Dave Blaney failed to make the race.

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.