Kimball, Newgarden, Carpenter three possible spoilers in Milwaukee

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With the “Big Three” teams dominating victory lane since the IZOD IndyCar Series first raced at Milwaukee in 2004, we take a look at three relative underdogs who could upset the apple cart this weekend at the Milwaukee IndyFest (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network).

Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter are three Americans who have made strides this season, and are in search of their first wins at the historic Mile.

Kimball, driver of the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, had a solid test last October and seeks to put together a complete weekend.

It’s been an OK year,” he said Friday in the media center. “This year we’ve had some not great races, good results. Last year, June was a blur. This year I got sick before the 500, not after. We’re not trying to stay afloat.

“We had a great test in fall,” he told me in advance of the weekend. “We had great weather til 5, and it rained right as we finished. In a race weekend it’s so tight with so little track time. Tough to get it exactly how you want it. We could get it where the feel was like. And now when we come back for the race, I will have a better understanding of the car and what we have to do to compensate for the weather.”

Newgarden has alternated top-10s with struggles this year so he seeks to break that trend this weekend after a solid drive to eighth at Texas, his fourth top-10 result this year in the No. 67 Direct Supply Honda for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

“Yeah – we’ll be flat in qualifying, flat out,” he said in a phone interview last week. “It’s still tough with all that downforce and being close. The air is aggressive and dirty. It’s a super fun place. It’s one of the most fun places to drive. You gotta man up, and make sure you go flat.”

Carpenter has been among the busiest in pre-advances in Milwaukee this week. He participated as one of three celebrity bartenders at the Miller Time Pub in downtown Milwaukee on Wednesday and on Thursday, was in a media friendly go-kart race at Light Speed in Greenfield.

That race was one this author participated in but with a slight bit of controversy, as was described in a blog by The Business Journal serving Greater Milwaukee.

“I have always liked the Milwaukee Mile,” said Carpenter, who placed fourth last Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway in the Firestone 550K.  “What is funny is that I never raced in USAC there, even with my USAC midget, sprint car and Silver Crown experience.  The schedule never went to Milwaukee.  We raced sprint cars at Angel Park in Sun Prairie near Madison.  That was the closest.”

“The Mile is so legendary with all of the great drivers battling there for over 100 years,” he added. “That track is older than Indy.  Like IMS, it has tradition and the racing is usually good there.  Coming off a fourth last Saturday night at Texas, I think we have a good opportunity to challenge for a win at Milwaukee.”

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.