Chase Elliott to have substitute crew chief at Road America, misses practice due to engine change

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Chase Elliott will have a new voice in his ear for Saturday’s Gardner Denver 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at central Wisconsin’s Road America.

Regular crew chief Greg Ives didn’t make the trip and remained home in North Carolina with wife Jessica, who is expecting the couple’s third child.

Elliott and JR Motorsports didn’t have to look far for a replacement for Ives.

Ernie Cope, who usually serves as the crew chief for the JR Motorsports No. 5 NNS team, which fields different drivers, will fill in for Ives because the No. 5 is not competing at Road America.

The new pairing will have their work cut out for themselves: Elliott couldn’t practice Friday due to an engine change, plus NASCAR officials condensed the two scheduled practices into just one two-hour session due to rain.

This will be Elliott’s second race at the twisting 4.048-mile Road America layout. He competed in last year’s ARCA race there, finishing fourth.

“Road America is a very unique place,” Elliott told NASCAR.com. “You don’t find many road courses that big with so many characteristics. It’s easy to make mistakes at a big place like that. One lap has so many different variables to it and you certainly have to prove your worth on Saturday.”

Elliott already has one road course win, in last year’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in Canada.

“I’ve always enjoyed road racing,” Elliott said. “It has always been really fun for me. My dad has always enjoyed it. He’s been a big fan of it and that’s probably where I got my liking from.

“It’s really cool because it’s something we don’t get to do a whole lot of. Fortunately for us (in the Nationwide Series), we get to race at three road courses (Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen International are the others) this season.”

Elliott is currently third in the NNS standings, 20 points behind JRM teammate and points leader Regan Smith.

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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.