Caution stops Greg Biffle from chance at a win, but still has best finish of 2014 and at Talladega

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Greg Biffle has been rather quiet thus far this season. But he sure made a lot of noise with a career-best second-place finish in Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Biffle earned just his second top-five finish of the season, as well. But at the same time, it also added to the success he’s had in recent races, having finished sixth at Texas and fifth at Darlington.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s sort of bittersweet for us,” Biffle said. “We’ve run a little bit better in the last couple weeks, and I wasn’t sure how we were going to run here. I was extremely happy with the speed my car had on Friday and then today all day, really happy with it.

“Our restrictor plate program is in decent shape. We’ve still got some work to do, but it sure would have been nice to get a win toward the Chase, but we’ve got some great racetracks coming up, as well. It would have been nice.”

Prior to Sunday, Biffle had just two top-five and five top-10 finishes in 22 starts at the massive 2.66-mile high-banked tri-oval, the largest oval on the Sprint Cup schedule.

Biffle led all drivers by leading 58 of the 188 laps in Sunday’s race. He hoped to have one more shot at eventual race winner Denny Hamlin on the final lap, but the caution flag dropped and Biffle was forced to settle for second.

“That final restart, Clint (Bowyer) gave us a huge, huge push, and we had a huge run at (Hamlin),” Biffle said. “I looked in the mirror and I saw the smoke behind me, and I wasn’t really sure whether the caution was going to come out and I didn’t know what to do and I thought about making my move on the 11 right then because I had a huge run and I … and then off of Turn 2 I could have passed him again, got beside him and sucked by him.

“But I just didn’t want to pass too early. I was going to be the lone soldier on the outside lane, and I was going to be 15th by the time we got back around to the start-finish line. So I was just waiting. I was backing up off of him quite a bit on the backstretch, and I got probably two and a half, three cars away from him, and then they said caution’s out. I was setting up to go by him but just never had the chance.

“I wish I would have known we weren’t going to race all the way back, but it was a good day for us. The car was really fast, a lot of speed, and just happy to come out of here with a clean car.”

While Biffle couldn’t catch Hamlin due to the race finishing under caution, it gave him confidence that the first win of 2014 could very well be right around the corner, perhaps as early as this Saturday night at Kansas Speedway.

Biffle is one of just five drivers who have two prior wins at the 1.5-mile track in Kansas, which further elevates his optimism.

“I’d be super excited to win there to start with, but to be (the) first guy to win three there would be pretty neat,” Biffle said. “I love that racetrack. It’s a lot of fun to race on and puts on a good race.”

All in all, Biffle is glad to put Talladega in his rearview mirror, and more glad that it continued the roll he’s been on – one that he hopes continues in Kansas.

“I was extremely happy to finish second,” he said. “We’ve been moving up a little bit in points. I know it doesn’t mean all that much this day and time, or it’s (qualifying for the revised format in the Chase for the Sprint Cup) not really a points race, it’s the wins or whatever, but it’ll help us kind of keep trudging toward the front a little bit.”

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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.