IMSA: Castroneves, Cameron on front row for Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio

Photo courtesy IMSA
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Courtesy IMSA Wire Service

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio will have a pair of Acura Team Penske Acura DPis at the front of the field when the green flag drops on the two-hour, 40-minute race at 1 p.m. ET.

For much of Saturday’s 15-minute IMSAWeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying session, it appeared that Dane Cameron would be the one leading the way in the No. 6 Acura ARX-05. However, Helio Castroneves stole the Motul Pole Award from his teammate on the final lap of qualifying, throwing down a blistering lap of 1 minute, 11.837 seconds (113.155 mph) in the No. 7 Acura DPi he co-drives with 2017 WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion Ricky Taylor.

It was the second consecutive Motul Pole Award for Acura Team Penske, as Cameron’s No. 6 co-driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, led the field to green last month in the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach. It also was Castroneves’ second career WeatherTech Championship pole and first since scoring the pole in the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta last October.

Castroneves also has two IndyCar pole positions at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in 2007 and 2008 and has two Mid-Ohio race wins in the CART Champ Car World Series in 2000 and 2001.

“Man, Dane was on it,” Castroneves said. “I knew he was going to be super-fast, and when they told me the number of the lap time that he did, and I passed him and then he did it again, and T.C. (Team Penske President Tim Cindric) – I’ve worked with T.C. in my radio with more than 10 or 15 years, and I knew exactly what he was asking for.

“I knew I had it. I just had to put it together. Every time I was going out there, the car was getting better, it was accepting it. It was a great team effort. Dane actually helped me to find out something that maybe wasn’t there, but we were able to put it together and it was awesome.”

Cameron will start second with a best lap of 1:11.984 (112.924 mph). This will be the first time that teammates will share the front row of a WeatherTech Championship race since then-Action Express Racing teammates Joao Barbosa and Cameron started 1-2 for the 2017 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Another pair of teammates also will be sharing the second row of the Prototype grid. Mazda Team Joest locked out positions 3 and 4, with Oliver Jarvis qualifying third in the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P DPi car at 1:12.339 (112.370 mph) and Jonathan Bomarito fourth in the No. 55 Mazda DPi at 1:12.596 (111.972 mph).

Renger van der Zande completed the top five in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R he shares with Jordan Taylor. Van der Zande’s best lap was a 1:12.600 (111.966 mph).

The two-hour, 40-minute race will be televised live on FS2 at 1 p.m. ET, with live IMSA Radio coverage also available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.

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.