NHRA U.S. Nationals: What’s in a name? Morgan Lucas wins Top Fuel at Lucas Oil Raceway

(Photo courtesy NHRA)
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BROWNSBURG, Indiana – There’s quite a few things that are very fitting about Morgan Lucas winning the Top Fuel class in Monday’s finals of the NHRA’s 61st Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals.

First, it the second year in a row that a Lucas Oil team driver has won in Top Fuel (teammate Richie Crampton did it last year).

Second, the 31-year-old Lucas, who defeated Dave Connolly in the final round, is driving only a part-time schedule this season.

And third, both wins came at Lucas Oil Raceway. Lucas’ family owns Lucas Oil, which is the naming rights sponsor of the NHRA-owned track just west of Indianapolis.

“Winning this race is absolutely massive,” Lucas said. “It’s the biggest race win I’ve probably ever had in my life.

“It was a really big team effort this weekend. Last year he (Crampton) won it. So I guess it was my turn.”

MORE — NHRA: Final results, updated standings after U.S. Nationals

The win was the 12th of Lucas’ Top Fuel career and his first since last year’s season finale at Pomona, California.

“This is a special win,” he said. “This is my 11th year in Top Fuel of trying to do this. I’m still not really good at it.

“But to win this weekend is amazing and I’m very blessed and very happy to have done this.”

NOTES: With Spencer Massey’s release from Don Schumacher Racing last week, and Massey’s inability to get a last-minute ride for this weekend’s race, Connolly still came home a winner of sorts, becoming the 10th and final driver for the Countdown for the Championship.

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

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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.