Ganassi completes Road America IndyCar, IMSA sweep

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Chip Ganassi Racing has managed success across most of its teams in the 2017 season, regardless of which series it competes in.

Today the team now completed a sweep of the Verizon IndyCar Series and IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races at Road America, following its win in the GT Le Mans class in Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase.

Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller converted Mueller’s pole position into the No. 66 Ford GT’s second win of the season (Rolex 24 at Daytona). And after Scott Dixon won the IndyCar race here a little over a month ago, it means Ganassi has now conquered the track with both its teams this year.

They’ll have a chance to go for a three-peat later this month in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, when Justin Marks drives the No. 42 Katerra Chevrolet here. Marks won last year at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Xfinity and will race for the team there next week.

Additionally, Ford is the sixth different manufacturer in GTLM to win in as many years at Road America. Ford follows Corvette who won last year, then Porsche in 2015, Risi Ferrari in 2014, the SRT Viper in 2013 and BMW in 2012.

Hand had the opportunity to finish today’s race, with Mueller having started from pole. That left Mueller in a position of watching Hand bring the car home, unlike where Hand was at last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and Daytona this year.

Hand reflected on the final hour, needing to hold off Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, for the victory.

“I love racing. That’s what I show up for. If people on TV and here didn’t enjoy that race, they probably don’t like racing,” Hand said.

“This team is historically good here. Dirk threw down in the Kink – we’ll call it ‘#SoFlat’ – so it was a big lap and that started it all off. Managing this race from the front is what you need to do. There were a bunch of good teams and cars. You don’t want to get caught out.

“After a few bad races, coming to the championship, this is what we needed.”

Neither the No. 3 Corvette C7.R nor No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM had a banner day – the top two cars in points finished fourth and sixth – so it gives the Ganassi No. 66 car a great points day.

The sister No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe finished third, for its fourth podium of the season – all of which have been achieved in the last six races. This also marks the team’s first double podium finish of the season, coming after a front row lockout in qualifying.

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.