Honda issues statement after Ganassi comments

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The president of Honda Performance Development issued a statement Saturday following sharp comments from Chip Ganassi, whose Honda-powered team faces an uphill climb in tomorrow’s IZOD IndyCar Series season opener.

“Honda shares Chip’s commitment to winning, as is evidenced by our 196 IndyCar victories, many of which were achieved in partnership with Chip and his team,” said HPD president Art St. Cyr. “We are pleased with Takuma Sato’s front-row start and a strong qualifying performance by rookie Tristan Vautier in his inaugural race. But Honda is always looking to improve, and continues to work tirelessly to give all of our IndyCar Series teams the opportunity to win.”

Ganassi and the rest of the Honda squads have been unable to fully match the speed of the Chevrolet-powered entries so far this weekend. His drivers, Dario Franchitti, Charlie Kimball, and Scott Dixon, qualified 10th, 14th, and 20th respectively on Saturday for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — and afterwards, Ganassi criticized his engine supplier.

“They said for years and years and years they want competition,” Ganassi told the Associated Press.”Now they’ve got competition and they are not talking about winning. I feel like they want to sit around and hold hands and sing. I want to win.”

Outside of Sato and Franchitti, rookie Tristan Vautier (sixth) was the only other Honda-powered driver to qualify within the Top 10 starting positions.

To be clear, Honda doesn’t appear to be facing the same hopeless situation that Lotus found itself in last season, and the entire field as a whole is relatively tight. But because of the closeness in competition, any sort of drop-off in performance — even just one or two tenths of a second — becomes magnified, and with Chevy and Honda continuously working to improve on their motors, gaps can be tough to erase.

With that in mind, the overall pace of the Honda teams throughout the 110-lap race (Noon ET, NBC Sports Network) will definitely be a key storyline for Sunday.

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.