Colton Herta, Lando Norris preview IndyCar iRacing Challenge at COTA

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IndyCar’s iRacing Challenge will continue Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or via streaming) with yet another star-studded field.

There are 33 drivers entered in the race at virtual Circuit of The Americas, highlighted by the addition of Formula One’s Lando Norris.

Also joining Norris as iRacing Challenge newcomers are Australian Supercars driver Chaz Mostert and IndyCar veteran Spencer Pigot.

ENTRY LISTWho will be racing in round five

IndyCar made its real-life debut at COTA last year with an exciting weekend that saw Colton Herta become the youngest winner in series history at just shy of 19 years old.

Herta has been practicing and is hopeful that Saturday’s race will be just as exciting for fans. While Herta said he misses being at the real track, iRacing provides a somewhat realistic feeling of what it would be like.

“It still kind of keeps your mind sharp and gets you in the mindset of actually competing so it does help,” Herta told reporters Friday. “Even though it’s not the real thing, it’s the best thing we’ve got right now.”

Herta also said the simulation also does a fairly good job of emulating certain real-life aspects of the car and track.

“I think relative terms like the ‘dirty air’ and how the tires go off, it is really good,” Herta said. “I think if you hop on the sim for an hour or two before each race weekend, it’s good for learning the track, it’s good for knowing where the bumps are so you’re not wasting that time on actual race weekends trying to find out lines and stuff.”

Sim racing also has provided the opportunity for drivers from different disciplines to race against each other, which Norris appreciates.

“That’s one of the cool things about all of this, you’re getting all the different drivers from different sports but also from different categories of racing,” Norris said. “Everyone is coming from a different area.

“Sometimes you would maybe never get to race against these people in your career. Virtually you’re still racing against these people with different skills and attributes. Obviously, for me coming in and joining you in IndyCar, it’s an opportunity for me to race the IndyCar guys.”

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Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.