Mario Andretti spins out during IndyCar two-seater ride at Texas

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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FORT WORTH, Texas – Racing legend Mario Andretti takes pride in giving race fans and VIP’s a high-speed thrill ride in an IndyCar as driver of the Indy Racing Experience two-seater.

It’s a specially-prepared IndyCar that has a seat behind the driver and is able to replicate the thrill and sensation of the machines that compete in the NTT IndyCar Series.

“I like to make sure the rider feels like I’ve left nothing on the table,” Andretti told NBCSports.com.

But on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, the 79-year-old Andretti was giving a business associate a ride around the high-banked oval when the car broke loose coming out of Turn 2 and spun out.

Andretti, the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 (1969), the Daytona 500 (1967) and the Formula One World Championship (1978), was able to maintain control of the car and keep it from hitting the outside wall. The car drifted across the track and made light contact with the infield retaining wall.

Neither Andretti nor his passenger were injured.

“I wanted to make a change on the car, and I should have taken the time and I didn’t,” Andretti said later. “I thought I would ride it out and it caught me out coming out of Turn 2.

“The passenger loved the ride. He hopes we have a video of it. It’s actually the son of my business partner, M.J. Castello. I know the kid well.”

The “Two-Seater” has a longer center of gravity and thousands have paid for the experience of racing around various road courses, street courses and speedways on the NTT IndyCar Series.

“It’s serious business,” Andretti said. “That’s why you sign a release of liability. Look at the millions of miles we have run and have never hurt anybody. The protection in the car is amazing and everybody is fine.

“I thought I had the car saved, but I didn’t. It hit the inside wall a little bit, but no big deal. I’m safe, I don’t want to hurt myself or anybody … That’s just the way it is.”

According to one of the co-owners of the Indy Racing Experience, over 120,000 rides have been given to guests with no injuries — a rather impressive statistic. The rides are only available to guests and VIPs 18 and over.

 

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.