NASCAR is only five races into its 2013 Sprint Cup Series season but for the third consecutive year, the driver of Penske Racing’s No. 22 Shell-sponsored entry is in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The last two years have seen Kurt Busch enter hot water with Penske after a verbal confrontation ahead of an interview with ESPN pit reporter Jerry Punch at Homestead, then last year AJ Allmendinger had his contract terminated for failing a random drug test ahead of the July race at Daytona International Speedway.
Now, Joey Logano is the latest to enter the controversy sweepstakes. His contact with Denny Hamlin at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. on Sunday left Hamlin hospitalized with a vertebrae fracture and drew the ire – and fists – of an irate Tony Stewart in post-race.
Still, Logano’s team boss Roger Penske told USA Today Sports he’ll back his driver regardless of the situation.
“I’m 150% behind my driver, and I think he’s a real star on the team,” Penske said.
Stewart said of Logano in the same story, “It’s time he learns a lesson. He’s run his mouth long enough and done this double standard, but he’s nothing but a little rich kid who has never had to work in his life.”
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.