Will Power fades to fifth after critical error in the lead at Barber

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Will Power will enter the Month of May at Indianapolis as the Verizon IndyCar Series points leader, but a critical error while leading today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama may have cost him further momentum.

After the race finally started after a weather delay of several hours, Power gradually pulled away from Ryan Hunter-Reay and the rest of the field. But on Lap 16, he went in too hot at the left-hand Turn 5 hairpin known as ‘Charlotte’s Web.’

Power couldn’t hold on and he ended up taking his No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet through a gravel trap before swiping a nearby tire barrier. The Australian got back on track, but while he narrowly avoided disaster, Hunter-Reay took control of the lead.

It proved to be an important moment in the race, as Hunter-Reay went on to earn his first victory of 2014. As for Power, his car’s performance faded as the 2.37-mile Barber Motorsports Park circuit gradually dried out and he eventually finished fifth.

“I just locked up. Once you lock a wheel in the wet, you just go straight,” Power said to NBCSN afterwards. “That was alright, we had a big enough lead to only lose one position. But man, I missed that [barrier] there – missed it by an inch, I reckon.

“We just didn’t have the pace in the dry. Maybe just a little heavy on downforce, but in that half dry, half wet condition, we kind of struggled.”

Power was able to hold on to second after the mishap but Hunter-Reay and him were shuffled to second and third while Sebastian Saavedra stayed out on his wet tires to take the lead under caution at Lap 22.

Another caution bunched up the field at Lap 31, and shortly after the subsequent restart, Power was jumped by Marco Andretti going into ‘Charlotte’s Web’ for the runner-up spot (Saavedra had finally pitted by this point).

Power settled in third position as the race crossed into the final half-hour of its 100-minute time, but a round of green-flag stops began a few minutes later.

With 26 minutes to go, Hunter-Reay and Power pitted together but when the cycle was over, Power had fallen to fifth behind Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud, with whom he had contact and a post-race argument with two weeks ago in Long Beach.

However, it’s still a Top-5 finish and that helps Power big-picture wise. He holds an 18-point advantage over Hunter-Reay in the championship going into the two races in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – the Grand Prix of Indianapolis road race in two weeks (Sat., May 10) and the Indianapolis 500 on Sun., May 25.

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.