For Zach Veach, Milwaukee a valuable learning lesson

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Although Sage Karam won Saturday’s Firestone Indy Lights Series race at the Milwaukee Mile, his former teammate and budding rival Zach Veach had his breakout weekend for Andretti Autosport.

The driver of the No. 12 K12 entry (photo credit: IndyCar photo) started second and finished third, each the best result of his rookie season. However it could have been much more; Veach led the opening 56 circuits after passing Karam from the initial green flag.

Where Veach got into trouble was that he used up his tires too early in the 100-lap race. That made it difficult to get through traffic and cost him his lead he had built up of more than four seconds.

Key lessons learned then, for the Stockdale, Ohio native who was the first driver to test in all three divisions of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder (he and Karam have raced in all three: Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000).

“I got quoted by Sage saying I jumped the start, but we were just side-by-side,” Veach explained in an interview Wednesday. “I think he was a little asleep, and waited a little too long. They threw the green so it was an ven playing field.

“Definitely we pushed a little hard early. They key was to get the lead right on the start and carry it a few laps. But as a rookie, I over pushed a bit, then I started having some tire trouble.

“When it came to lapped traffic, we pushed so hard at the beginning that we didn’t quite have the tire to make an easy pass,” he added. “It’s a handful at Milwaukee without the banking.”

Both drivers had raced at Milwaukee before in 2011 (Veach in USF2000, Karam in Pro Mazda). Veach took his 2013 experience as his initial one because the cars are so different; the Lights car is much heavier with the “musclely” V8 block in the back, while the USF2000 car has much less downforce and skinnier tires.

Veach also took the time to praise his sophomore teammate Carlos Munoz, who returned to focus solely on Lights at Milwaukee after his incredible month of May and runner-up finish in the Indianapolis 500.

“Honestly, this is why I love Carlos as much as I do. Right after we got off the track, now it’s time to focus back on Lights,” Veach said of Munoz. “He’s got a high maturity level. I came into this situation, being a little underprepared for the off-track things and studying data.

“Now I’m seeing how much really goes into it. It’s allowed me to revamp my protocol when it comes to working at the track. In Lights, you’re studying data, video, engineering setups. It’s a whole lot more work in a way, the Mazda Road to Indy is like high school, each level has more responsibility, and Carlos has been a big help on that.”

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.