Carl Edwards to leave Roush Fenway Racing at season’s end

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The Carl Edwards era at Roush Fenway Racing will soon come to a close.

This morning, the team announced that Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and the incoming Trevor Bayne will make up its driver lineup for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season – and that Edwards, who has won 23 Cup races and a Nationwide Series championship (2007) for the team, is moving on.

Biffle and Stenhouse will continue driving their No. 16 and 17 Fords respectively, while former Daytona 500 champion Bayne will make his full-time return to Cup in the No. 6.

“I will always be thankful for Carl’s contribution and the role he played in many Roush Fenway wins and championships,” team owner Jack Roush said in a statement.

“We wish him well for the future. In the meantime, we are excited about continuing our quest for a championship with Carl and the No. 99 team in 2014.”

Additionally, with Edwards’ exit, longtime No. 99 sponsor Fastenal will now become the primary backer for Stenhouse starting next year.

Edwards currently sits sixth in the Sprint Cup standings and is currently the lone Roush driver to have locked himself into this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup by virtue of his two wins at Bristol and Sonoma earlier this year.

He now officially becomes the biggest free agent in the Sprint Cup garage. For months, the Missouri native had maintained silence on his contract situation with Roush and on what his future may hold. However, Edwards has been heavily linked to a new, fourth car at Joe Gibbs Racing for 2015.

As for the team he’ll be leaving behind, Roush Fenway has an interesting mix of drivers in the stable for next year.

Biffle has been with the team since 1998 and has won championships for the team in both the Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series. But now, he’ll be the team’s lone elder statesman, so to speak, while the younger Stenhouse and Bayne continue to come into their own at NASCAR’s top level.

Stenhouse will be entering his third season of Cup racing in 2015, while Bayne will be shifting to a full-time Cup ride after several years of running a full Nationwide schedule for Roush and a part-time Cup schedule for the Wood Brothers.

“The focus of our leadership is going to be with Greg Biffle and the things that he does for the race car and the leadership he provides for the engineering initiatives we’ll take,” Roush said to reporters this morning.

“We had that split with Carl and Greg together this year, so that will be a little different this year. But Ricky is ready to step up, and Trevor’s a Daytona 500 winner and he drives his car with great enthusiasm in the Nationwide Series.

“We’re not going to be in a bad place next, it’s just going to be a little different.”

Jack Miller wins MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his 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.