Roger Penske will give the command to start engines for the Indy 500

Indy 500 engines command
Mykal McEldowney/USA TODAY Sports Images
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INDIANAPOLIS — Roger Penske will give the command to start the engines Sunday for the 104th Indy 500 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, green flag 2:30 p.m.).

Penske will take over a role held by the late Tony Hulman or the Hulman-George family for decades.

Penske in January became the fourth owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track confirmed Friday to The Associated Press that it will be Penske giving the command.

Speedway officials also confirmed the Andretti family will be honored before Marco Andretti leads the field to green. Mario Andretti, the 1969 winner of the race, drives the IndyCar two-seater for the series before events and will be joined by son, Michael, for the ride.

THE 104TH INDY 500How to watch Sunday’s race on NBC

‘A MASTERPIECE’: Marco Andretti loves his car for the Indy 500

Marco Andretti is the first Andretti on the pole for the Indy 500 since Mario Andretti in 1987.

The two-seater ride for Mario and Michael will mark the first time three generations of the racing family will be on track together at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I’m one of the few that can say I’ve been teammates with both my father and my son, and now to have the opportunity for all three of us to be on track together, on race day at IMS, is really special,” Michael Andretti said. “Dad and I are really excited to do this together, but we’re still fighting about who’s going to drive.”

The starter for the Indy 500, meanwhile, is an important element to the tradition of the race and made famous when Hulman began giving it sometime in the 1950’s. Hulman was a soft-spoken man who would rehearse the line in order to perfectly deliver the command in a proud and vociferous manner.

Hulman’s widow took over the honor following his 1977 death, and it then went to their daughter, Mari George, and ultimately his grandson, Tony George.

Penske did not give the command for the July weekend in which both NASCAR and IndyCar shared the track in his first events as owners. The command for the IndyCar race was given by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb. For the NASCAR race, the command was given by Scott Borchetta of Big Machine Records and he held a bottle of hand sanitizer for the occasion.

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.