Harding confirms O’Ward, Herta in two-car effort for Sonoma

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
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Harding Racing confirmed on Friday that Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, who battled for this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship, will make their Verizon IndyCar Series debuts with the team at the season-ending INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma.

O’Ward, the newly crowned Indy Lights champion, will pilot the No. 8 Chevrolet, while Herta will take over the team’s usual No. 88 entry.

Both O’Ward and Herta have tested with the team previously – Herta back in July, while O’Ward tested with them at Sonoma Raceway earlier this week.

“We’re really happy with how Patricio did in the car at Sonoma. Coupling that with the excellent job that Colton did in Portland earlier in August, Harding Racing is really excited about being able to provide their Verizon IndyCar Series race day debuts next week at Sonoma,” said team president Brian Barnhart.

Both Herta and O’Ward are equally as excited to make their IndyCar debuts.

“I’m super happy to get my start in IndyCar next weekend for the Sonoma Grand Prix,” said Herta, who won four Indy Lights races, including the Freedom 100, in 2018. “Mike Harding and Brian Barnhart have been very supportive in this effort and I can’t think of a better place to get my start in IndyCar. There are too many people to thank for this opportunity, but I’m very thankful for Harding Racing.”

O’Ward highlighted that the differences between the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 and the DW-12 IndyCar definitely got his attention during the aforementioned test, but he also emphasized that he adapted quickly and was quite happy with how things went.

“Really happy how the (test) ended. We were very quick, and the car felt very good,” O’Ward explained.

He added, “The differences between the Lights and these cars are insanely different. The amount of grip and the amount of power that these cars have is just something different, I’ve never driven something is fast. Around Sonoma the difference in this aero makes the car so much heavier and the braking capabilities of these type of brakes are amazing. They’re very strong. The car is extremely difficult, so I’m going to have to go to the gym. I’m just super happy with how the day ended and I honestly could not have imagined the car being better. It is a monster. It is a beast. I’m really looking forward to the race weekend, I know we’re going to be pretty strong.”

O’Ward and Herta finished first and second in the Indy Lights championship, and will be the third and fourth drivers to compete with Harding in 2018. Gabby Chaves competed in 13 races for the team in 2018 – he was also the team’s driver in the three races they contested in 2017 – with Conor Daly taking over for three races between July and August.

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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.