Spend Black Friday doing a few laps on Charlotte Motor Speedway


If you’re in the Charlotte area Friday and get tired of fighting the Black Friday crowds, especially at the nearby Concord Mills shopping center, here’s the perfect respite: do a few laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Speedway will once again let fans take three laps in their personal car/truck around the 1.5-mile high-banked track.

But there’s a catch – which really isn’t too bad, really.

Drivers must spend $50 on souvenirs, pit passes or race tickets – or donate $25 to Speedway Children’s Charities to get the green flag to take to the track.

If you think you’re going to break the track speed record, forget it. You’ll be driving under VERY controlled conditions, with track vehicles setting the pace – a very slow pace in all likelihood.

Still, you can tell your family, friends and neighbors that you were on the same track that Kevin Harvick and all of the other Sprint Cup regulars were on for three races this past season (including the Sprint All-Star Race).

This is at least the 10th year Speedway officials have allowed drivers to motor around the fabled facility.

Marcia Ramsey of Monroe, N.C., took part in her first Black Friday Blowout (BFB) at CMS last year when she and her husband took their brand new Audi A4 for a spin after making a donation to Speedway Children’s Charities.

“It was great,” Ramsey said in a speedway media release. “It was exciting being on the same track as the NASCAR drivers. It is just amazing what those guys can do. I was driving about 65 mph and was nervous because it was a new car.

“If it was my old car, I would have put the pedal to the metal.”

Added Stuart Fox of Biltmore Lake, N.C., a Tony Stewart fan who has been coming to BFB for 10 years, “I get my tickets early to get the best seats each year for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. … The most exciting part about driving on the track is staying high above the turns.”

In addition to track merchandise for sale, you can also pick up some great Christmas gifts for your favorite NASCAR fan from merchandise trailers of several of today’s stars, including new Sprint Cup champ Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, as well as Duck Commander, Ford Racing, zMAX and others.

BFB will run from 8 am to 5 pm ET. For more information, call the CMS gift shop at (704) 455-3202 or go to CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com.

At 6 pm, one of the Charlotte area’s big traditions, Speedway Christmas, opens with photos with Santa, a petting zoo, a replica Bethlehem village, marshmallow roasting and a screening of “Elf” on the track’s 16,000-square-foot HDTV.

Tickets for Speedway Christmas are $20 per car. Fans who bring a Coca-Cola product will save $3 off admission.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide


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.