Jack Harvey, SPM, confident elusive win will come soon

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Four runner-up finishes in five races is nothing to scoff at to start a season.

Yet for Jack Harvey and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, four runner-ups in five races have provided a sense of “oh so close, but no cigar” thus far to open their second Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires together.

Harvey banked another pair of P2s this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park after kicking off the season the same way at St. Petersburg. The interlude, at Long Beach, saw Harvey secure an important pole position but get taken out on the first lap.

Still, compared to where he and the team were last year at this time, he’s feeling better about where they are at now.

“We’re getting the momentum every race, but it seems Juncos is as well,” Harvey said post-race at Barber. “I think we’re quite a long way ahead of where we were last year. We have a great team of people here.

“Simply, we weren’t quick enough this weekend. Spencer (Pigot) and Juncos were the people to beat all weekend. All we can do is congratulate the people who beat us and try to turn the tables heading into in my opinion the best month in motorsport. That would be a great place to get our first win of the season.”

Harvey expanded in a one-on-one interview on how gutting the Long Beach DNF was, after Kyle Kaiser made contact with him at Turn 1 on the first lap, but also noted how impressed he was with his team.

“Ultimately we have had four podiums out of five,” Harvey told MotorSportsTalk. “The thing I get frustrated about (at Long Beach) was that it was a disappointment through no fault of our own. I think that’s the thing.

“But you can’t get too annoyed or downbeat. It happened, so fine, deal with it and work a bit harder. Overall we had a very solid weekend with two second places. There’s a lot of guys who would take that. It just shows Spencer was quicker.”

Harvey is bullish heading into the month of May at Indianapolis. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, Harvey didn’t win – he came third and second – but said this was where the team began to hit its stride in 2014.

“Indy we were very strong last year; that was kind of the resurgence of our 2014 season,” he said. “The team has a good base setup and we know we can be fast. We know how we need to improve but figure out what process we need to do to get there.”

The other thing Harvey has been impressed with, year-to-year, has been the overall competition upgrade in the series. Besides Schmidt Peterson, the caliber of effort from series newcomers Juncos and Carlin has raised the collective game.

“This year, there’s not been one team that’s dominated,” Harvey said. “St. Petersburg, it was clearly Carlin. Long Beach we went there and we were on the pole. We came here and Spencer is on pole for both and wins both.

“There are a lot of good teams and every weekend will be different.

“If there’s days where we are only good for third we need to come second, and if there’s days we are good enough to win, we need to win. I think that’s where we are at right now.”

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.