Early yellow bites Pagenaud, Castroneves, Rahal in Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
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The Honda Indy Toronto showed promise for Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves, and Graham Rahal. Castroneves rocketed into the lead with a bold, three-wide move on the inside entering turn one as the race started, and he led teammate Pagenaud and Rahal through the opening stint.

All told, the three were beginning to draw away from the field as the first round of pit stops began, but a Lap 23 caution for Tony Kanaan, who overshot turn one and nosed into the tire barrier, put Castroneves, Pagenaud, and Rahal behind the eight ball.

With several drivers having stopped before the caution flew, the former lead trio restarted outside the top ten on Lap 26, with Castroneves running the highest in 14th. From there, they played catch-up as best as they could.

In the end, all three made it back into the top 10, with Pagenaud finishing fifth, Castroneves eighth, and Rahal ninth. But, all three were disappointed to miss out on chances to win.

Pagenaud masked his disappointment in acknowledging that the race win went to fellow Team Penske driver Josef Newgarden.

“We managed to fight back on the (primary black tires). The car was phenomenal. Such a shame we got caught out by the yellow. But glad we kept (the win) in the family,” he said to NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis regarding his comeback to fifth and Newgarden’s triumph.

Castroneves, too, remained upbeat post-race. “When Roger (Penske) called me to pit I was already off Turn 10 and I couldn’t come in. It’s a shame that it came out that way but at least one of our guys ended up winning the race. Our Hitachi Chevy was really strong and we keep collecting points and getting closer in the championship,” he told Beekhuis.

Rahal was somewhat more vocal in his frustration.

“I got the call after we passed pit in. Newgarden was just lucky because he was falling off the train of the three of us (Castroneves, Pagenaud and Rahal). He was 2.5 seconds behind us, or just enough to get the call. When (my team) said to me ‘Pit, pit’ I was turning into Turn 9. Obviously I can’t see what’s going on in Turn 1. We played it right today but got unlucky. The three best cars didn’t win the race or finish 1-2-3,” Rahal lamented.

Graham Rahal saw a chance to battle for a win go by the wayside after an untimely caution. Photo: IndyCar

Rahal added that he missed an opportunity to gain a lot points in the championship as well, due to a lap one crash involving Scott Dixon and Will Power.

“Obviously I’m disappointed for the Rousseau team. I’m happy for our United Rentals Turns for Troops (lap completed) program. We raised another several thousand dollars to help our veterans. But I’m frustrated because today was a day we should have easily gained a lot of points on Dixon, Newgarden and everybody else but unfortunately the way the officials have decided to close the pits these days, luck plays a huge factor and today it bit us,” he finished.

Still, all three drivers remain in championship contention. Castroneves sits in second, only three points behind Dixon, with Pagenaud 19 points out of the lead in third. Rahal sits tied for fifth with Will Power, 64 points behind Dixon.

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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.