MotoGP: Iannone claims maiden pole position in Italy

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Andrea Iannone claimed his maiden MotoGP pole position in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello as Ducati dominated proceedings on Saturday afternoon.

Racing on home soil this weekend, Iannone proved that Ducati’s progress at the start of the 2015 season is being sustained by edging out Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo in the final stage of qualifying.

The Italian rider gave the home fans plenty to smile about with a fastest lap time of 1:46.489 in the final part of qualifying, with Ducati teammate Andrea Dovizioso qualifying third on the grid.

Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi was unable to keep up the Italian success, though, qualifying down in eighth place on the sister Yamaha bike.

However, the biggest shock of qualifying was the demise of Honda’s Marc Marquez. The two-time world champion failed to automatically secure a place in Q2 with a poor result in practice, and then mistimed his final Q1 lap to leave himself 13th on the grid.

The result marks Marquez’s worst ever MotoGP qualifying result, but teammate Dani Pedrosa managed to ensure there was at least one Honda in the top ten by finishing seventh in the final session.

In spite of a fracture on his arm, Iannone was able to dominate proceedings and made no secret of his delight following the session.

“I am very pleased with how things went today,” Iannone said. “For sure in my condition this result was in no way expected, but in the end me and my team did a great job and we managed to improve.

“The only problem I have at the moment is my shoulder condition, because it needs more time to get back to 100%: tomorrow will be a tough race but I will not give in.”

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing at Barber

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IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”