After leading most laps, Kahne comes up just shy

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Kasey Kahne gave it a good shot in the closing circuits, but had to settle for runner-up to Matt Kenseth today at Las Vegas after leading the most laps out of any driver.

Kahne was a force in the race’s first half and stayed toward the front up to his final pit stop of the day under yellow. He entered pit road first but was momentarily held up by an oncoming Tony Stewart that was going into his pit box, and as a result, he found himself sixth on the restart with 37 laps to go.

Five laps later, Ryan Newman blew up his motor to bring back the caution and after what would be the last restart of the day, Kahne made his way up into second position and battled Kenseth for the win. But while it appeared that his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had an edge over Kenseth in Turns 1 and 2, Kenseth’s No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was faster in Turns 3 and 4.

The outcome: Close, but no cigar.

“Matt did everything right,” said Kahne, who led 114 of 267 laps. “When I caught him, I was like, ‘Man, this is not the guy you want to have to race with at 10 [laps] to go.’ He’s gonna do everything right and you’re gonna have to figure out how to squeeze by him.”

Kahne said he briefly considered utilizing the apron in an attempt to pass Kenseth — a move that eventual fourth-place finisher Kyle Busch used on Kahne to grab the lead on a Lap 165 restart — but couldn’t since Kenseth was running that same line.

“I could follow him and stay in his draft a little bit, and stick with him about the same amount, then when I didn’t do that, he’d pull away,” Kahne said.  “It was definitely faster down there if you got a good run off of Turn 4 to do that down the front straightaway.

“I would’ve had to go through the grass, and I don’t think that would’ve been good.”

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.