Dixon, Newgarden, Power quickest in Saturday’s IndyCar practice at St. Pete

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Scott Dixon shot to the top of the speed chart late during Saturday’s IndyCar lone practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Dixon covered the 1.88-mile track layout alongside Tampa Bay with a time of 1:00.7571, not far off from Will Power’s track record of 1:00.6580.

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was second quickest (1:00.8654), followed by Power (1:00.8718).

Fourth through 10th were rookie Jordan King (1:01.0321), followed by another rookie, Matheus Leist (1:01.0327), 2016 series camp Simon Pagenaud (1:01.0654), Spencer Pigot (1:01.0940), 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (1:01.1132), 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (1:01.1501) and Tony Kanaan (1:01.3205).

11th through 20th were: Marco Andretti (1:01.3532), Ryan Hunter-Reay ((1:01.3548), James Hinchcliffe (1:01.3592), Zach Veach (1:01.3678), defending race winner Sebastien Bourdais (1:01.4053), rookie Robert Wickens (1:01.4644), Gabby Chaves (1:01.5125), Ed Jones (1:01.5337), Graham Rahal (1:01.6708) and Jack Harvey (1:01.7094).

Lastly, 21st through 24th were Max Chilton (1:01.8545), Charlie Kimball (1:01.9193), rookie Zachary Claman De Melo (101.9393) and rookie Rene Binder (1:02.9615) continued to have issues finding speed.

Among incidents in Saturday’s session:

* With about 28:30 left in the session, rookie Matheus Leist spun in Turn 4, bringing out a brief red flag situation.

That particular turn caused nearly a half-dozen drivers problems in Friday’s two practice sessions.

Interestingly, no drivers have hit the wall in Turn 4. They’ve just gone for a ride, spin and then continued on after getting restarted.

* With about 22:45 left, Ed Jones went into the Turn 1 runoff area after locking up his brakes.

* Shortly after Jones’ issue, Graham Rahal almost lost control, but collected it up and kept it off the wall.

* With about 18 minutes left, rookie Zachary Claman De Melo spun into the Turn 4 runoff area.

* With just over 13 minutes to go in the practice session, Turn 4 bit yet another driver, as Alexander Rossi added his name to the roster of drivers who spun into Turn 4’s runoff area.

* Jordan King had looked strong, running consistently in the top 5, but with just over one minute to go in the session, plowed into a tire wall exiting Turn 12. The car suffered minor damage and King was uninjured.

Conditions were significantly different than Friday’s two practice sessions. Friday was near-perfect conditions with sun shining throughout the day and temperatures in the mid-70s.

Saturday morning, however, the temperature was 66 degrees at the time practice began, with a heavy cloud cover and no rain.

Verizon IndyCar Series qualifying takes place later this afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET.

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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.