IndyCar officials announce preliminary details of return to innovation

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Set against a backdrop of the historic cars that have graced Indianapolis Motor Speedway for more than a century, at the IMS Museum, IndyCar’s new leaders described the preliminary plan for innovation to return to the series.

The key word here is “preliminary.” Specific details were hard to find in the formal remarks made Thursday by Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, head of IndyCar’s parent company, and IndyCar’s new President of Competition/Operations Derrick Walker, who will take his new post after the month of May concludes.

The official line from the sanctioning body is that IndyCar will open the door to increased technical innovation in its cars and safety, with Walker directly responsible for identifying specific improvements and guiding their implementation.

Miles wants to see big speeds return to the Speedway – pun intended. Arie Luyendyk has the four-lap track record (236.986 mph),  the single-lap record (237.498 mph) and unofficial practice lap record (239.260) at IMS, all set in 1996 with a previous-year Reynard-Ford Cosworth IndyCar.

“We want to step up our game,” Miles said. “We’ve achieved a great car platform, so now we can move forward to explore what’s next.”

Ways to do so, at least with the current Dallara DW12 chassis and the 2.2L V6 turbocharged engines from Honda and Chevrolet, include the long-discussed but not-yet-finalized introduction of aero kits, and the plea from drivers, teams and fans alike for – as “Top Gear’s” Jeremy Clarkson might say – more power.

Walker said aero kits are more likely to see the light of day first, before manufacturers agree to a horsepower increase.

“The first bit will likely be aero kits,” said Walker. “There is room for the cars to advance aerodynamically.”

There’s a fine line to ensure innovation returns and the solid nature of the current IndyCar on-track product isn’t affected as a result, Walker said.

“There is plenty of speed in this car if we want to let it go, and if we can manage it,” he said. “To get where we want to go, it will take time. It will take a very careful structuring.”

In March, IndyCar announced the formation of an 11-member advisory Competition Committee. Members on it include Walker, officials from Dallara, HPD, Chevrolet and Firestone, other IndyCar senior officials and two drivers (Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti) and two team representatives (Tim Cindric, Penske and Bryan Herta).

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.