Servia confirmed for Schmidt Peterson third car at Indy 500

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has gone for veteran expertise in its third car for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500, adding Oriol Servia as driver of the team’s No. 77 Schmidt Peterson with Marotti Racing Honda.

Servia, 41, would be set to start his eighth Indianapolis 500 since debuting in 2008, and make his 199th career start overall in a career dating to 2000. His best start is third in 2011 with Newman/Haas Racing and best finish is fourth a year later with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

It will also add Schmidt Peterson to Servia’s list of career teams driven for up to 14. Note the 13 below as was the case when he filled in for Will Power at the season-opening race at St. Petersburg.

Servia’s last four starts dating to last year’s Indianapolis 500 will have come for four different teams: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Andretti Autosport, Team Penske and now SPM.

Additionally, with both SPM teammates James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin having missed last year’s race for entirely different reasons, Servia will provide a guiding hand in seeing them get up to speed at Indy with both aero kits and the new domed skid plates, which have been the subject of much controversy in the run-up to the month of May. Hinchcliffe and Servia were teammates during Hinchcliffe’s rookie season in 2011.

“I am very pleased to have this opportunity at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports,” said Servia. “This year’s Indianapolis 500, the 100th running, will be the most special in our era, maybe of all time, and I wanted to make sure I was in a team that can give me a program to contend for the win. I have no doubt that together with SPM and Honda, we will at least do that.

“The whole team, including James, my teammate in 2011, and Mikhail, are ultimate professionals and I can’t wait to start doing laps at the most special track in the world in preparation for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

Said team co-owner Sam Schmidt: “We’ve competed against Oriol for several years now and have always looked for an opportunity to get him in one of our SPM entries. He is a true professional and is highly respected within the motorsports community. Interestingly enough, we shared the front row with him in 2011 and know that he can get the job done for all of our team partners.”

Speaking of partners, note the addition of Connecticut pastor Will Marotti, whose dreams for a place in the Indy 500 have been realized.

“We are thankful and excited beyond measure to be able to participate in the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 with a team of the quality and caliber of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports,” said Marotti. “This is the fulfillment of a 47-year-old personal dream, and we hope just the first of many years that Marotti Racing will be in the paddock and part of the IndyCar community.”

Inevitably, the safe and steady pair of hands that Servia provides for this seat means there is disappointment for others, most notably Gabby Chaves. The Colombian American tested admirably for the team, filling in for Aleshin, this preseason and had been strongly considered for the seat – budget pending.

Stefan Wilson and Brian Vickers were also reportedly in play, although rumors are percolating that Wilson may have an announcement of his own for Indianapolis to be revealed in the coming days.

Vickers had served primarily as Tony Stewart’s fill-in driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, although Stewart confirmed his return this weekend at Richmond. Vickers certainly would have added intrigue but would have been a gamble as a rookie without having any past experience.

There still remain a handful of formal announcements to come regarding the final few seats this year, with a couple other surprises possible to push the field past 33 cars.

ENTRY LIST AS IT STANDS

Chevrolet (16)

  • Penske (4) – Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud
  • Ganassi (4) – Max Chilton, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball
  • Carpenter (3) – JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter, Josef Newgarden
  • KVSH (3) – Sebastien Bourdais, Matthew Brabham (PIRTEK; KVSH tech partnership), TBA
  • Dreyer & Reinbold (1) – Sage Karam
  • Lazier (1) – Buddy Lazier (expected; not official yet)

Honda (17) 

  • Andretti (5) – Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi (Andretti/Herta), Townsend Bell
  • Coyne (4) – Conor Daly, Bryan Clauson (confirmed; Coyne with Byrd); Luca Filippi, Pippa Mann (expected; not official yet)
  • SPM (3) – James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin, Oriol Servia
  • Foyt (3) – Takuma Sato, Jack Hawksworth, Alex Tagliani
  • RLL (2) – Graham Rahal, Spencer Pigot

Jack Miller wins MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his 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.