UPDATED: Kyle Busch makes engine change, goes to rear

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Kyle Busch will have to go to the back of the field for today’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k due to an engine change according to a report from Wendy Venturini on this morning’s edition of SPEED Channel’s “SPEED Center.”

Busch was slated to start fourth in the 312-lap event.

This is the second Toyota Racing Development engine that has been swapped by Joe Gibbs Racing in the last two days at Phoenix International Raceway. Yesterday, Denny Hamlin and his team opted for a new TRD motor and gave up their eighth-place starting position on the grid as a result.

Venturini broke the news of Busch’s team encountering a parts failure inside the engine of the No. 18 car this morning and that they were unable to fix the problem due to time constraints. She also said that Busch’s issues were unrelated to Hamlin’s own on Saturday.

Busch was battling for the lead last Sunday at the Daytona 500 when his engine let go with about 50 laps remaining. That came just two circuits after JGR teammate Matt Kenseth had fallen out of the race while leading due to engine problems on his own car.

The TRD motors have proven to be fast, but lacking in reliability right now. One wonders if this gives Phoenix pole sitter Mark Martin and his Michael Waltrip Racing team some pause going into today’s race; they utilize TRD motors as well.

UPDATE, 2:24 pm ET: Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer reports that valve spring problems were behind the engine issues for both Hamlin and Busch. According to Bonnell, mechanics on Hamlin’s No. 11 car found a part failure that required a replacement of the motor, while human error in re-assembling Busch’s engine caused the No. 18 team to go to a new powerplant.

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.