End of long stretch of races in sight for IndyCar teams

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With today’s Iowa Corn Indy 250 at Iowa Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, check local listings), drivers and teams in the IZOD IndyCar Series will have raced six times in the last five weekends – and that’s not counting the additional efforts put into preparations for the Indianapolis 500 that began the grueling stretch on Memorial Day weekend.

They’ve raced on Indy’s 2.5-mile oval, followed that up with a pair of races on a demanding street circuit at Belle Isle, and then tackled the 1.5-mile oval at Texas and the Milwaukee Mile – two speedways that couldn’t be any more different from one another. Now, the 7/8-mile, high-banked bullring at Iowa awaits them this afternoon, and at a time where everyone’s looking for a breather somewhere, IndyCar’s shortest oval will afford them none.

“It’s probably the toughest [track], especially after five weeks,” Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan (pictured) said to the Associated Press. “It is what it is. That’s why we prepare ourselves for that. Myself physically, I tried to be ready because I knew it was going to be a long stretch. But you can tell. Everybody’s getting tired.”

The good news is that after 250 white-knuckle laps this afternoon in Iowa, the paddock will get a much-needed weekend off before July begins with events on back-to-back weekends at Pocono Raceway (July 7) and the doubleheader at Toronto (July 13-14).

The bad news is that Iowa’s frenetic and physical nature is bound to put even more pressure on drivers and team members that have likely become heavily fatigued.

“It’s not so much as just drivers, but the poor guys working on the car – they don’t have days off,” Chip Ganassi Racing engineer Brad Goldberg told the AP. “When we’re back at the shop, we’re not just sitting by the pool drinking margaritas.”

The weather could also prove problematic for the teams, as temperatures are expected to get into the lower 90s according to Des Moines’ NBC affiliate, WHO-TV.

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.