Will Power claims second straight IndyCar pole

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Through two rounds of the 2019 season, Will Power is the only pole sitter IndyCar has known. With a lap of 1 minute, 46.018 seconds, he outpaced Alexander Rossi (1:46.176) to win the 56th pole of his career and will lead the field to green at Circuit of the Americas (1 p.m. Sunday on NBCSN).

“That last lap was very neat,” Power said on NBCSN after the session was completed. “I finally breathed by the time I got to the start/finish line.”

Last week, Power set a fast early pace, but finished third on the Streets of St. Petersburg. This week he has 100,000 reasons to stay in the lead until the checkers wave with a $100,000 bonus on the line. The bonus from the track was announced Friday prior to practice.

Rossi was .159 seconds behind in second and knew precisely where he lost the time.

“The thing that’s bothersome is that it was a good lap, but (Power) has nearly 60 poles for a reason,” Rossi said. “I missed it a bit in the final corner to open the lap, so I knew I was climbing an uphill battle from there.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay (1:46.323) rounded out the top three.

Rookie contender Colton Herta (1:46.359) makes it would appear practice may be overrated. He missed most of Friday after blowing an engine in Practice 1. Herta got a few laps on track with the soft red tires during an added session for pit stop practice and as a result had an idea of what to expect in Saturday’s time trials. That allowed him to post the fourth-fastest time.

Chip Ganassi teammate Felix Rosenqvist (1:46.568) and Scott Dixon (1:46.938) will line up on row three.

“I haven’t really gelled with the track,” Dixon said after qualification. “It’s been frustrating even with the test we had here. It hasn’t been for a lack of laps. … The car has speed. We’ve seen that through (teammate) Felix.”

Watch the race on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN or at NBCSports.com or the NBC Sports app

INDYCAR Photo
Will Power scored his second consecutive pole at Circuit of the Americas. (Chris Jones, IndyCar)

Round 1 proved to be critical for several of the top drivers. In Group 1, Jack Harvey spun in the closing moments, which caught Sebastian Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe on track and unable to complete their fastest lap. They both failed to advance to Round 2.

In Group 2, Tony Kanaan spun with 30 seconds remaining to bring out the red flag. As a result, he lost his two fastest laps and did not advance to Round 2. The incident also caught out Simon Pagenaud and Marco Andretti.

It was the second time in two races that Bourdais and Pagenaud were unable to advance because of red flags in Round 1.

Josef Newgarden benefitted from the incident. He was posted seventh at the time of the red flag, but moved up one spot and advanced to Round 2 with Kanaan’s penalty.

Newgarden could not quite find the speed to advance to the Fast Six.

“We knew it was going to be tight once the weekend progressed,” Newgarden said on NBCSN after failing to advance to the Fast Six. “And it just wasn’t enough; it wasn’t a good enough lap. I missed a bit to start the lap in (Turn) 19. You have to take a lot of risks with the way we’re running it.”

IndyCar removed track limits from Turn 19, allowing drivers to go over the curb and into a wide run-off area to keep their momentum up.

Click here for complete qualification results

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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.