Besides Cassill, several others score season-bests at Talladega

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The crapshoot nature of Talladega is that it often presents an opportunity for smaller teams that avoid accidents a shot at a season-best finish.

Such was the case once again on Sunday, even though there wasn’t the much-loathed and much-feared “big one” that often seems to rear its ugly head.

Landon Cassill finished fourth, which was a breakout story on its own.

Meanwhile in sixth, Travis Kvapil posted a rare result while in the No. 33 Circle Sport Racing Chevrolet for Joe Falk. Kvapil’s season-best finish was 25th at Pocono in August driving for Frank Stoddard’s FAS Lane Racing in the No. 32 Ford. It marked his first top-10 result since coming home eighth at the 2012 fall Talladega race driving for BK Racing.

Each of those who finished 14th through 16th, Reed Sorenson, Cole Whitt and Michael Waltrip, posted their season-best results as well. Sorenson’s previous best this year was 16th at the Daytona 500, Whitt’s 18th at Fontana, and Waltrip’s 19th at the summer Daytona race.

Of the other part-time or otherwise “underdog” teams and drivers, Ryan Blaney finished 22nd in his second Cup start for Team Penske after starting fourth and running up front for a good portion of the race, Josh Wise was 28th as the Phil Parsons Racing No. 98 Ford was once again adorned in Dogecoin colors, usual Talladega surprises Front Row Motorsports were only 29th and 30th (David Gilliland and David Ragan), Trevor Bayne 32nd, Michael Annett 37th, Mike Wallace 38th, Michael McDowell 41st and the BK Racing teammates (JJ Yeley, Alex Bowman) 42nd and 43rd.

In his likely final start, two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte came home one lap down in 33rd.

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.