IndyCar: Title rivals versus potential new winners round out Mid-Ohio Fast Six

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Behind polesitter Sebastien Bourdais, the rest of the Firestone Fast Six for Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) features a mix of drivers who need a win for championship purposes with a few who could play spoiler.

Starting second and matching a career-best start is Josef Newgarden, in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda. Meanwhile in fourth is Carlos Munoz, in the No. 34 Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda, in his first Mid-Ohio IndyCar start. Both of the young chargers seek their first career wins.

Meanwhile Tony Kanaan looks for his first Mid-Ohio win, first win of the season, the Chip Ganassi Racing team’s first win of the season and sixth in a row at Mid-Ohio in the No. 10 Glad Chevrolet. TK rolls off P3.

Row 3 is a key row with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power each needing a win for championship purposes.

“It needs to be wins,” said RHR, driver of the No. 28 DHL Honda. “We’re not settling for fifths.”

Hunter-Reay has been the dominant driver this weekend in practice but will need to make up ground on Power and Helio Castroneves (who starts 15th).

Munoz, who looks to join RHR as race winners for Andretti Autosport this year, has been impressive this weekend as he looks to add to his score of three podiums this season.

“I really like it here,” said the young Colombian rookie. “I’ve felt fast and comfortable. It’s my first Fast Six of the season. I think strategy will count a lot.”

Newgarden and Kanaan took advantage of optimizing their setup in the wet conditions.

“The rain helped spread everyone out,” Newgarden explained. “We were bad last year. We had no handle on things. This year we have a better package, and in qualifying we handled the traffic much better.”

We’ll see whether any of these five is able to take the win on Sunday, to surpass Bourdais on pole and leave points leader Castroneves out to dry.

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.