Carpenter tests at Sonoma, with Hunter-Reay assist

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For the second straight year, Ed Carpenter enters the new IndyCar season having had all winter to enjoy being the last race winner of the previous season.

Now, the Fontana winner was back on track for the first time this year, as part of a private testing session at Sonoma Raceway in California.

Carpenter and the Ed Carpenter Racing team opted to skip last week’s test at Sebring to concentrate on the flowing Sonoma road course, which unlike Sebring, actually has a date on the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series calendar.

“Anytime there are people testing somewhere and you’re not there you feel like you’re missing something, but we’ll get our turn this week and we’re excited about that,” Carpenter said.

It wasn’t just Carpenter who had a shot at the team’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Dallara-Chevrolet. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the defending IndyCar champion, had a few laps in the car on Wednesday.

An ECR team spokesman confirmed Hunter-Reay was helping Team Chevy with some developments, as part of a collaborative effort between ECR, Andretti Autosport and Team Chevy. A similar occurrence came in Fontana last December, when Marco Andretti ran the car.

Carpenter struggled in road and street course qualifying a year ago, starting from 20th or worse in the first nine street and road course races. But at Baltimore, the tenth and last of the year, Carpenter and the team adeptly nailed a good enough time in the preliminary round of qualifying to advance into the second round as others hit issues. The eighth place spot on the grid is the best of his career on such a circuit.

“We felt we were getting better with our street circuit setups and Baltimore was a good qualifying performance for us,” he said. “So getting back on the road course at Sonoma will help us work on that process.  It will feel great to be back in the race car again.”

Besides Carpenter, entries from Panther and DRR (JR Hildebrand, Oriol Servia), Dragon Racing (Sebastians Bourdais and Saavedra), KV Racing Technology (Tony Kanaan, Simona de Silvestro) and Sam Schmidt’s two cars (Tristan Vautier in No. 55 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara-Honda, Simon Pagenaud in No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Dallara-Honda) tested Wednesday.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.