Rossi’s post-Indy 500 results: Decent, if not great, 10th and 12th

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Considering the records of the last three Indianapolis 500 winners in Detroit – a combined two 10th places the best results for Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015 – Alexander Rossi made it through Detroit relatively unscathed from a points perspective to actually improve from sixth in Verizon IndyCar Series points up to fifth by the end of the weekend.

Finishes of 10th nor 12th weren’t the best, but they also didn’t damage his hopes he indicated after winning Indy that he has a championship to shoot for now.

The driver of the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for Andretti-Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian atoned from a tough qualifying effort on Friday to improve from 17th to 10th in Saturday’s first race of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit Presented by Quicken Loans weekend.

Then on Sunday, Rossi led a lap (and gained a bonus point that went with it) on a slightly off sequence strategy play. He would have needed about eight extra laps of yellow in order to make it to the distance and instead needed a final splash inside the last 10 laps, which dropped him back to 12th.

All told though, he survived both races without incident save for a broken front wing in race two. In the season long Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle, he only lost 30 points to Conor Daly and still leads that, 242-177, while improving one place in the overall points to fifth.

Rossi is the highest placed Honda driver in the championship, behind a quartet of Chevrolets (Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden).

“We had a broken front wing at the start – that didn’t help us at all,” Rossi said in the team’s post-race release. “I think generally the pace was good, we had to make up a lot of time with having to change the front wing. The biggest thing we need to understand is why it takes us so long to come up to speed on cold tires. That’s something we need to address. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to racing in Texas next week.”

It remains to be seen whether the NAPA Auto Parts signage and livery will continue into Texas Motor Speedway, although logically speaking since Rossi made his visit to Texas in his post-Indy 500 media tour and since track president Eddie Gossage is known for his promotional savvy, it would make sense that the driver who rocked the NAPA gear then would do so at Gossage’s track.

You can read my colleague Daniel McFadin’s piece on Rossi’s oval baptism here, as well as take a look back at Rossi’s week leading into Detroit in this video compiled by IndyCar here.

The Verizon IndyCar Series returns to NBCSN this weekend on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET from Texas.

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.