Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis field swells to 25 entries

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Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be a little more crowded.

The usual 21-driver field has swelled to 25 drivers with the additions of Spencer Pigot, Matthew Brabham, Alex Tagliani and JR Hildebrand.

All have been announced earlier this year, but this weekend marks their first opportunity to impress in rare one-off opportunities.

“I can’t wait for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, not only because it’s my first time back in the car this season, but because I really enjoyed the track and event last year,” said Hildebrand, who will be driving the No. 6 Preferred Freezer Fuzzy Vodka Chevrolet. “It’s a great way to kick off the month.

“Even though the other guys will be coming in with a little more recent seat time, I expect to be competitive very quickly with a good car from the Ed Carpenter Racing boys.”

In theory, Brabham would have made his series debut in the 100th Indianapolis 500 on May 29.

But when the opportunity arose for Brabham to race one race earlier in the ALGPI, he jumped at it.

“It is hard to believe that I will be making my Indy car debut in the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis this week,” said Brabham, who will pilot the No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet.

“To have a full-time Indy car career is the ultimate goal and this month is the next step in achieving that ambition. I think I am as ready I can be. … We want to have speed, but we also want to bank as much knowledge as we can on things like pit stops and communication before we head to the Indy 500.”

Tagliani, a noted road course expert, knows he has a little rust to shake off this weekend.

“It’s been three years since I’ve driven an Indy car on a road course of any kind,” said Tagliani, who will drive the No. 35 Alfe Heat Treating Special Honda. “The cars have changed – there is new downforce – and it will be challenging.

“I don’t want to raise expectations because just getting back in the groove and getting to know the car is going to be challenging. When the weekend is over, I’ll probably feel like I could’ve done better and would do better if I had another shot. But I’m thankful for the opportunity and will do my best for the Alfe Heat Treating/Foyt Racing team.”

The 22-year-old Pigot will be making his second career IndyCar start, having made his debut earlier this year in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

“I’m very excited for my second Indy car race,” said Pigot, who will drive the No. 16 RLL/Mi-Jack/Manitowoc Honda. “Now that I have an idea of what to expect during an Indy car race weekend, I think I’ll be much better prepared.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time with the team at the races since St. Pete, picking their brains and learning as much as I can. The IMS road course hasn’t been great to me in the past (he finished seventh and 12th in last year’s two Indy Lights races at Indianapolis).

“We’ve been quick but always seem to get caught up in a Turn 1 incident, so hopefully that trend stops this year. I enjoy the layout of the track. It has some tricky sections that require patience and precision. There are a few good passing places as well, which should make for an exciting race.”

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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.