Pruett, Lexus sustain heavy crash in Hour 2 at Rolex 24

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The flagship driver of the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 program, Scott Pruett, has seen his 55th Rolex 24 at Daytona likely come to an end following a heavy accident exiting Turns 1 and 2.

It appeared as though Pruett overcorrected while trying to come back to power on corner exit, and went across the road directly in front of the No. 4 Corvette C7.R driven by Tommy Milner. Pruett crashed his Lexus head-on into the barriers at pit exit, which caused heavy front-end damage to the car.

The five-time Rolex 24 at Daytona winner and recently minted 2017 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America driver, who owing to the odd quirks of the FIA Driver Rating system is actually a Silver-rated driver (he’s 56 years old, which automatically qualified him for a downgrade from Gold to Silver last year), emerged from the wreckage under his own power OK.

“Well, we were just rolling around. The Lexus was running. We were just putting in the hours, you know?” Pruett said, in quotes released via Lexus. “Not exactly sure what took place. We were racing pretty hard there in a group. It felt like I got just a little nudge from behind.

“It could have been just the air taken off the rear wing cause we were in a pack or something, but it snapped pretty hard, pretty quick down in turn one and unfortunately it got into the fence on the left hand side, so I don’t know if we’ll get going again. You just feel disappointed for all the guys, all the team, everybody that’s put this thing together and this is not how you want to start, so hopefully we’ll get back out there and get a little more running in and see what we can do.

“Just disappointment. There’s so many people here that are a part of this program that have put so much energy and effort into getting here and then to have something like this happen it’s just frustrating. It’s not how you want to get things going.”

Pruett’s No. 14 Lexus started 13th in the GT Daytona class. He was meant to share the car with Sage Karam, Ian James and Gustavo Menezes.

Karam has posted the team will work to repair the damage and get the car back out.

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.