Forgettable IndyCar Classic for Ganassi drivers

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Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas did not go quite as planned for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Felix Rosenqvist and Scott Dixon started the race in fifth and sixth place respectively, but neither driver would leave COTA with a satisfying result.

While neither really challenged for the lead during the 60-lap race, they still ran inside the top ten for the majority and appeared to be up for decent finishes.

That all changed when Rosenqvist and James Hinchcliffe clashed at Turn 19 on lap 44. After using the wide runoff area at the corner, Hinchcliffe struck the back of Rosenqvist’s No. 10 machine, sending it directly into the inside barrier.

The rookie driver, who turned heads after qualifying third and leading 31 laps en route to a fourth place finish in the season opener in St. Petersburg, was immediately out of contention and finished the race 23rd, five laps down.

Rosenqvist’s accident also brought out the first and only caution of the race, which was disastrous for the leaders of the race that hadn’t pitted yet – a group that included Dixon. Forced to pit under yellow, Dixon came out in mid-pack and could only advance to 13th by the finish.

“It wasn’t our best race with the PNC Bank team. I’m really not sure what to say about it. I’m pretty frustrated and not sure what else to say,” Dixon said.

With the poor results, both drivers dropped in the points standings. Dixon fell one spot to third and Rosenqvist fell from fourth to a tie with Jack Harvey in 10th place.

But the 2019 IndyCar season is still a young one, and both drivers hope to have their luck turn around in the next race on the schedule, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 7 at Barber Motorsports Park.

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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.