Pre-Long Beach, Newgarden visits Detroit to throw out first pitch

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Josef Newgarden usually goes the extra mile to help promote the Verizon IndyCar Series and its events, and the Tennessee native was busy doing the promotional work today ahead of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans weekend June 3-5.

The driver of the No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing made the rounds on local TV stations in the morning, then headed to Comerica Park to fulfill a childhood dream.

Here was Newgarden’s first pitch ahead of the Detroit Tigers hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates:

Newgarden one-hopped it home, and got a bit of good natured ribbing from Jimmy Vasser.

He recovered to sixth at Phoenix last race, despite getting hit by Charlie Kimball at Turn 1 following a restart.

Now he heads to Long Beach (Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBCSN), one of his favorite races on the calendar – and traditionally one where he qualifies well.

He was seventh on the grid in 2012 but bumped up to second following five Chevrolet cars incurring 10-spot grid penalties for engine changes. A bold but aggressive move to polesitter Dario Franchitti’s outside at Turn 1 that year left him in the wall and out of the race.

He qualified fourth in 2014 and had arguably his best weekend in IndyCar to date before he got taken out in Ryan Hunter-Reay’s aggressive move at Turn 4, then driving for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Incidentally, Ed Carpenter Racing won that day with Mike Conway delivering the team’s first road or street race win.

Last year, he finally got a result at Long Beach, starting sixth and finishing seventh.

“I can’t wait to get to Long Beach! It’s one of the most exciting events of the year,” Newgarden said in the team’s media advance release.

“As a street course, it’s very thrilling and it has an amazing atmosphere. It’s definitely one of the tracks I feel like we’ve always been fast at, just not quite able to seal the deal from a results standpoint.

“The last couple of years we’ve been close, fighting within the top five but not able to get to the podium. Hopefully we can turn that around this year with the Fuzzy’s car and get on to the podium or even to victory lane!”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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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.