Article by Jacob Black, photo courtesy of NASCAR
Valentino Rossi came one step closer to taking second in the 2014 MotoGP world championship with an incredibly popular win at Phillip Island on Sunday. The Doctor was gifted the win after champion Marc Marquez crashed out while holding a four-second lead.
After starting eighth on the grid, Rossi clawed his way to second ahead of teammate Jorge Lorenzo by the mid-point of the race. The Yamaha duo battled for the position over several laps, until Lorenzo’s tires went off and he was passed by Cal Crutchlow late in the race. Crutchlow suffered a similar crash to Marquez on the final lap, gifting second back to Lorenzo and helping Briton Bradley Smith secure his first ever MotoGP podium.
NASCAR moved into the penultimate round of its Chase for the Sprint Cup “playoff” series on Sunday with the completion of the Contender Round at Talladega. Shockingly, three of the sport’s biggest names, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr, are out. Busch was eliminated from contention at Talladega after a major pile-up and Earnhardt Jr was taken out in the first attempt at a Green-White-Chequered finish. Kasey Kahne was unable to race his way through on points.
Brad Keselowski had to win to advance to the Eliminator Round. After a wild week that saw him awarded last week’s Black Flag, as well as a $50,000 fine by NASCAR the former champ was able to bounce back to claim victory, and seal his place in the group of eight championship contenders.
Joining him are Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick both of whom advance by race wins, as well as Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth who scrape through on points.
And while Kahne, Johnson and Earnhardt Jr all made their appearances in front of the camera with grace, perennial bad-boy Busch stormed away from cameras, colliding with fans and officials as he ran away to his trailer.
The remaining eight will be whittled down to four after the next three races, with the final four racing in a one-race round to determine the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion.
There are many who have called for Valentino Rossi to retire in recent years. After Lorenzo had the best of him during their first tenure as teammates, and then his ill-fated stint with Ducati, the lustre seemed to have gone from the seven-time top-class champion. This year though, Rossi has enjoyed a renaissance, and were it not for the prodigious Marquez, Rossi might well have taken the title.
I don’t want to do this, but Marc Marquez’s concentration has definitely lapsed in recent races. His crash at Phillip Island was a clumsy one, and he himself admits it came at a time when he was backing off and going slower. The tires might have been a factor, with not enough heat built up due to his slower pace, but that’s a soft excuse from the world’s best rider. Concentration might be the chink in Marquez’s otherwise impenetrable armour.