Additional post-St. Pete notes: Foyt, Ganassi teams rally for top-10s

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Two quick story lines to follow up on after this weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener for the Verizon IndyCar Series were the respective runs from A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.

Both banked lower end top-10 finishes after rallying from issues earlier in the race. Takuma Sato completed a comeback drive from 21st to sixth in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda after starting 10th.

Sato managed to avoid losing a full lap despite getting a cut tire on the first lap. He was back up to 14th by Lap 56 and then nearly survived the Turn 4 parking lot but still needed a new nose and tires.

A successful rally brought him to sixth; teammate Jack Hawksworth had pace all weekend but ended 11th in the No. 41 ABC Supply Co. Honda after a roller coaster day with seven pit stops.

“We had a difficult time in qualifying but the boys and the engineers did a fantastic job to bring the car back and we had a very strong race pace. The ABC Supply team did a great job in the pits and I’m happy we were able to come back twice,” Sato said.

Meanwhile, Ganassi’s trio of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Charlie Kimball finished seventh, ninth and 10th after fighting overheating issues, and with Kimball surviving a brake rotor failure on the final lap and still ending up in one piece.

Per the Indianapolis Star‘s Curt Cavin, CGR managing director Mike Hull told him that the sidepod inlets took in too much trash.

Max Chilton, the fourth member of Ganassi’s quartet, ended 17th in his IndyCar debut.

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.