United Fiber & Data announces IndyCar return; capacity, driver TBD

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Andretti Autosport has three of its four 2014 cars locked down for next year, and the potential exists for the team to add a fifth full-time car for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season per Michael Andretti’s wishes expressed ahead of the Milwaukee IndyFest race.

Meanwhile one of Andretti’s 2014 commercial partners appears set to return to IndyCar for 2015 and beyond.

United Fiber & Data, which upped its involvement this year to become primary sponsor of both James Hinchcliffe’s IndyCar and Matthew Brabham’s Indy Lights car, addressed rumors it might not be returning with a declarative “we’re here, and we’re staying” tweet on Labor Day Monday.

UFD’s presence this year has extended beyond the drivers themselves. Their activation has included the UFD Girls, who were present at all Verizon IndyCar Series races this season.

As for whose racecars UFD will be adorning next year, that still remains a mystery.

Hinchcliffe does not yet have a contract signed, but is working towards returning with Andretti Autosport for 2015.

Brabham’s status is yet to be determined with Andretti not yet having committed to an Indy Lights program next year, as that series prepares to introduce the new Dallara IL15 chassis.

Michael Andretti told MotorSportsTalk at Milwaukee he “has a lot of time” for Brabham and will look to keep him involved under the team fold in some way, shape or form over the offseason and into 2015.

UFD returning is a good thing – and we await to see whether it will be an encore for Hinchcliffe and UFD in the No. 27 Honda or whether it could potentially shift within the paddock.

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.