Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: GP of Indy Thursday

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Along with the rest of Thursday’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis Verizon IndyCar Series posts, here’s some thoughts from the paddock on day one of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend, via quotes distributed by INDYCAR:

  • Consider Scott Dixon, fastest on Thursday, pleased with how the track works: “The cars are on a knife edge. The straights are so long that you’re trimming the car out to levels that I think we’ve only seen once before in Brazil on a street course with another really long straight. That there makes it tough, the window of being on the edge and going for the quick time is uncomfortably small, but it’s a lot of fun. You’re constantly chasing the track, and the conditions, today it is very windy, tomorrow it might open up and rain, and then for the race, I hope everyone comes out for that, but I like it. They did a hell of a job with this track.”
  • It was a mixed day for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing as Graham Rahal’s No. 15 National Guard team went one way and Oriol Servia’s No. 16 went the other. Rahal’s won out – P6 versus P23. “We’re getting it into a better zone, and definitely more competitive. I’m proud of these guys for keeping their heads down and getting it done. There is still work to be done but its work to be done coming from sixth (in afternoon session) versus coming from the back which is a good change for us,” said Rahal.
  • Servia may not have been happy with his setup, but he was happy with the improved details even just last week’s open test. “They have done a good job finishing all of the small details. They painted the curbs and they look great. It’s funny how just a little bit of color and aesthetics change the whole feel. They’ve painted the curbs in three different color tones which look really nice. I’m sure the fans are going to like it and they will look great on TV,” he said.
  • Charlie Kimball (right) and Ryan Briscoe, 11th and 17th in practice two, were both happier with their days than the times indicated. “We made some huge steps forward from practice one to practice two. The speed was there in practice one, but we just didn’t quite get the lap time we wanted,” said Kimball. Added Briscoe, “I’m pretty happy with how today went. I mean our lap time doesn’t really show how good of a day we actually had. We did some race prep when the track was getting faster so we probably missed putting together a fast lap time when the track was at its quickest.”
  • Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya said the weather conditions drastically changed the complexion of the track. “The track was pretty hot today, so we had to change the car over a little bit from what we had in the test session last week. Last week was frigid compared to what we have for conditions today. We spent the first session just trying to figure out what we needed because it was almost like starting over. I felt we really gained a lot in the second session,” said JPM, who ended practice two in 13th, just ahead of teammate Helio Castroneves.
  • James Hinchcliffe ended best of Andretti Autosport’s five drivers in P5. “Solid first day, I guess. This is a tricky track to set up for. It’s kind of the trim wars right now out there on figuring out what the right downforce level is. The weather’s changing a lot, the track’s still changing a lot, so at the end of the day, we’re pretty pleased to have the United Fiber and Data car in the Top-5,” said the Canadian.

More tomorrow with practice three and qualifying.

Thursday IndyCar post round-up:

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.