Munoz “forgot” about Indy disappointment; seeks a Detroit repeat

Photo: IndyCar

DETROIT – Carlos Munoz heads into today’s first of two races in the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans having moved on from last week’s frustration of finishing second in the 100th Indianapolis 500, primed to win a race under more normal circumstances than he did this day last year.

Munoz, the talented 24-year-old Colombian, entered the ranks of Verizon IndyCar Series winners in the first of two waterlogged, caution-infested races on a dynamic strategy after starting 20th. But he said afterwards he wanted to win his second race in a more normal fashion.

With his three Andretti Autosport teammates mired in 15th (Ryan Hunter-Reay), 17th (Alexander Rossi) and 19th (Marco Andretti), Munoz should carry the hopes of the team for the first of two races in things go to plan on Saturday.

Now he wants to forget about Indianapolis and continue his form; he told me before the month of May he was driving the best he ever has, and being the top Andretti Autosport qualifier in now three of the past five races bares that out.

“The next day, I forgot about the second place, whatever,” Munoz said Friday. “A lot of drivers wanted to finish second, that’s for sure, and they were home watching the race.

“Like I said, I think I said to you, I haven’t been driving so good I think this year. I’ve been driving so good, even the results didn’t show a lot in the road courses, but for the package we have, I had or whatever I had in that moment, I think I’ve never been so good driving. So the result doesn’t show it, but for me emotionally, I’ve been driving the best ever in my career right now, this year.”

Munoz felt he extracted the maximum out of his car on Friday, as he reached only the second Firestone Fast Six of his career, the first since Mid-Ohio 2014 held in mixed conditions.

“We tried some stuff for the Fast Six, and it didn’t work, but it’s my first Fast Six with that like normal conditions, so just really happy. I was the best of the team, so I think it’s a good position to start the race. I was here last year on the wet, and I think it’s a good position to start the race. I think we still have work to do. I think I got everything out of the car. I think that was the limit.”

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


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.