IndyCar: Bourdais wins pole for Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

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The battle for the Honda 200 pole position came down to the final moments of the Firestone Fast Six, but Toronto Race 1 winner Sebastien Bourdais emerged with the top spot on the grid thanks to his last lap of 1 minute, 24.1610 seconds around a rapidly drying Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Bourdais and the other competitors in the FF6 rode out the final round on the Firestone wet tires despite the changing track, which had been soaked prior to the start of the three-round qualifying session.

American driver Josef Newgarden appeared set to win the pole for the small Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team. But after Bourdais knocked him off the top spot, the Tennessee native could only get back up to second with his last lap of 1:24.6787.

“It was a totally different [third round] than it was in the first two sessions,” Bourdais told IndyCar Radio after his second pole of 2014. “There was a developing dry line so we went from totally outside to having to venture into not really well-known territory with the wet tires, which was really difficult to know when to make the [line] switch.

“The last lap, I knew I was shy and I needed some more, so I went for it. I made it stick, the Mistic machine gave me everything it got, and it was enough.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan will start third tomorrow as he hopes to continue his recent run of success. He’ll be joined in Row 2 by Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz.

Munoz’s teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Team Penske’s Will Power will make up Row 3. Power could have a big chance to overtake Penske partner Helio Castroneves (+13 points over Power) for the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead, as Castroneves was unable to advance out of the first round and will have to start 15th.

Also faltering in the first round were Ryan Briscoe, Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon – all from the Ganassi stable and all former Mid-Ohio winners. Briscoe and Kimball start 19th and 20th, while Dixon is starting 22nd and dead last.

Chip Ganassi Racing is seeking its sixth consecutive win at Mid-Ohio tomorrow afternoon (see some highlights from their current win streak here).

Under damp conditions, qualifying got underway with a red flag in Group 1 as multiple drivers including Briscoe, Power, and James Hinchcliffe all went off the slippery course just a few minutes into the 10-minute run. Officially, Briscoe triggered the red as he was briefly unable to get going after his spin in Turn 11.

The green returned with less than five minutes remaining, but almost immediately, another red came out for a spin involving Takuma Sato in Turn 6.

The session ran out of time while Sato was having his car restarted, but Race Control opted to give the drivers an additional period of time to run one more timed lap at speed. Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Huertas, Power, Simon Pagenaud, Mike Conway, and Kanaan were able to advance after the one-lap dash.

Group 2 also had an early red flag for Dixon, who slid into the grass at Turn 9. The green came back with less than four minutes left and when the time ran out, Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, Newgarden, Munoz, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson had all posted laps good enough to advance to Round 2.

A spin for Montoya in Turn 1 briefly redflagged the second round of qualifying, costing him his two best laps. Montoya would wind up not advancing to the Firestone Fast 6 (he’ll start 11th), but Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Munoz, Newgarden and Power did make it to the last round.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT MID-OHIO – HONDA 200
Qualifying Results
FIRESTONE FAST SIX
1. 11-Sebastien Bourdais, 1:24.1610
2. 67-Josef Newgarden
3. 10-Tony Kanaan
4. 34-Carlos Munoz
5. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay
6. 12-Will Power
ELIMINATED IN SECOND ROUND
7. 15-Graham Rahal
8. 19-Justin Wilson
9. 77-Simon Pagenaud
10. 18-Carlos Huertas
11. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya
12. 20-Mike Conway
ELIMINATED IN FIRST ROUND (GROUP QUALIFYING)
13. 7-Mikhail Aleshin
14. 17-Sebastian Saavedra
15. 3-Helio Castroneves
16. 25-Marco Andretti
17. 27-James Hinchcliffe
18. 98-Jack Hawksworth
19. 8-Ryan Briscoe
20. 83-Charlie Kimball
21. 14-Takuma Sato
22. 9-Scott Dixon

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.