NOLA marks IndyCar’s first race visit to a new permanent circuit in five years

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This week’s trip to NOLA Motorsports Park marks a rarity for the Verizon IndyCar Series: it’s the series’ first trip to a new permanent road course, for a race, in five years.

In 2010, IndyCar made its maiden voyage to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., and the event has quickly become a staple on the calendar every April.

Now, this year, the Andretti Sports Marketing-promoted Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana joins the calendar (2:30 p.m. ET, Sunday, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

NOLA and Barber are both Alan Wilson-designed tracks, and both have witnessed a bevy of testing prior to the race introduction. Here’s a lap of the NOLA Motorsports Park circuit, from a single camera shot, shot during testing.

IndyCar has had other inaugural or revived events in the intervening five years since Barber joined the calendar, but those have been at street circuits or at tracks where the series has raced previously.

Twice in the last five years, IndyCar has added a road course race on a traditional oval circuit. Last year marked IndyCar’s first Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, to complement the Indianapolis 500 and expand the month of May. IndyCar also made a one-time appearance on the Twin Ring Motegi road course in 2011 following earthquake and tsunami damage to the oval.

Last year’s Grand Prix of Indianapolis at the IMS road course marked the only inaugural race with the new Dallara DW12 chassis in the car’s three years of service before the introduction of manufacturer aero kits. Races at Pocono, Houston, Detroit and Fontana were all revived in either 2013 or 2012.

Here’s a quick rundown of past inaugural events and past revived races in the last five years, since Barber 2010:

INAUGURAL EVENTS

  • 2014: Grand Prix of Indianapolis, IMS road course (Win: Simon Pagenaud, Pole: Sebastian Saavedra)
  • 2011: Grand Prix of Baltimore, streets of Baltimore (Win: Will Power, Pole: Will Power)
  • 2011: Indy Japan: The Final, Motegi road course, shifted from oval (Win: Scott Dixon, Pole: Scott Dixon)
  • 2010: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Barber Motorsports Park (Win: Helio Castroneves, Pole: Will Power)
  • 2010: Sao Paulo Indy 300, streets of Sao Paulo, new circuit, and first Brazil race since 2000 CART (Win: Will Power, Pole: Dario Franchitti)

RACES RETURNING AFTER HIATUS

  • 2013: Pocono Indy 400, Pocono Raceway, first Pocono race since 1989 CART (Win: Scott Dixon, Pole: Marco Andretti)
  • 2013: Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston (doubleheader), first Houston races since 2007 Champ Car (Wins: Scott Dixon, Will Power, Poles: Takuma Sato, Helio Castroneves)
  • 2012: Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, first Detroit race since 2008 IndyCar (Win: Scott Dixon, Pole: Scott Dixon)
  • 2012: MAVTV 500, first Auto Club Speedway race since 2005 IndyCar (Win: Ed Carpenter, Pole: Marco Andretti)
  • 2011: MoveThatBlock.com 225, first Loudon race since 1998 IndyCar (Win: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Pole: Dario Franchitti)
  • 2011: Las Vegas Indy World Championships, first Las Vegas race since 2005 Champ Car (Race canceled; Pole: Tony Kanaan)

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.