Colombian quartet all in top-10 in Long Beach IndyCar race

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The chaos that populated the second half of Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach promoted all four Colombians into the top-10 of the second Verizon IndyCar Series race of the year.

As written yesterday by my MST colleague Chris Estrada, Carlos Munoz upheld Andretti Autosport’s honor with a podium, on a day when that team lost two cars in the same incident.

But all three of Munoz’s countrymen made it into the top-10 as well. Juan Pablo Montoya went on a roller coaster of a day after qualifying in the eighth row, advancing up as high as fourth, getting a penalty for pitting under a closed pit and dropping to 20th, then rebounding back to fourth by the flag.

“I could’ve been a little more aggressive at the end but I really wanted to make sure we didn’t get in any trouble and got a decent finish in the Verizon car,” said JPM. “We had some close calls out there but we kept pushing and to come out of Long Beach with a top-five finish is pretty good.”

KV/AFS driver Sebastian Saavedra (pictured) had a crazy day as well. Included in his day: a stall off the start from 22nd, an off sequence strategy, a moment where his left thumb got hit by debris, his first ever lap led in IndyCar, and a final mechanical problem that meant he had to nurse the car home. When all was said and done, the driver of the No. 17 Chevrolet ended ninth, and is now 10th in points after finishing 11th in St. Petersburg.

“It was quite an interesting race,” said Saavedra. “I made a big mistake at the start, stalling the car, but we kept calm and focused. We had a great car with great pace and that enabled me to move back through the field. I was also able to capitalize on the mistakes by others.

Carlos Huertas, the fourth Colombian in the field, continued to overachieve in the second Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Huertas started 21st but made it as high as fifth, before earning a penalty for passing before the start/finish line on a restart. He ultimately ended 10thh, for his first career top-10 result.

“Montoya lifted big and I did pass on the restart to avoid hitting him, then I let him back by before Turn 1 so I am surprised I was penalized,” he said. “The team helped me learn the track and it was a weekend that should have been even better.”

The Colombian quartet now heads to Barber – a track where Munoz (2013) and Saavedra (2012) have won the last two Indy Lights races, where Montoya has enjoyed several tests, and where Huertas, again, will turn his first laps on the track in first practice.

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.