Graf, Luhr win ALMS at Road America; Viper, DeltaWing teams also shine

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A crash with less than 10 minutes remaining proved enough to end the American Le Mans Series’ Orion Energy Systems 245 at Road America under caution, with Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr claiming their fifth consecutive overall victory for the No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing entry.

But there are perhaps two bigger stories from this afternoon’s two-hour, 45-minute event.

First, the SRT Motorsports Viper claimed its first win since returning to the ALMS in the GT class as Marc Goossens was able to coax the final drops of fuel from his No. 91 Viper and coast home to the win ahead of the twin Corvettes of Antonio Garcia and Oliver Gavin.

Goossens’ co-driver, Dominik Farnbacher, and the Viper crew were very anxious as they watched Goossens make his final lap along the four-mile road course under yellow conditions. But all of them were soon wearing smiles.

“It’s unbelievable,” Farnbacher said to ESPN. “It was a nail-biter. I think we came through the finish line with the last drop of fuel. If you look at all those faces – everybody’s crying. It’s so emotional for us and I’m just speechless at the moment.”

Second, the DeltaWing machine – which first began as a potential new chassis in 2012 for the IZOD IndyCar Series but was then brought in for sports car racing – led its first laps in the ALMS with co-drivers Katherine Legge and Andy Meyrick. Both of them were able to get the No. 0 to the overall lead in their stints during Sunday’s outing.

Meyrick lost the P1 and overall lead to Graf with 53 minutes to go, and the DeltaWing faded slightly to third in class and fifth overall at the finish. But the laps led were still a significant accomplishment for the unique machine, which weighs half as much as a typical ALMS prototype.

As for Graf and Luhr, the Muscle Milk men found things a bit hairy in the beginning as a track that had been dry for much of the weekend was noticeably damp when the clock started.

“It was a little bit of chaos in the beginning,” said Luhr, who ran the opening stint for MMPR. “We haven’t really been running here [this weekend] in the wet – to be honest, I don’t know when the last time was that I ran the Muscle Milk car in the wet! So it was very challenging in the beginning, but we made it through.

“We were a little bit careful in the beginning because we don’t need to make unnecessary risks. But as the race kept on going, we started really pushing it. It was good fun, but also a little bit sad because for a long time, it’s going to be the last rounds here with the LMP1 car.”

Scott Tucker and IndyCar’s Simon Pagenaud (No. 551, Level 5 Motorsports) were victorious in the P2 class, as were Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende (No. 9, RSR Motorsports) in Prototype Challenge, and Spencer Pumpelly and Nelson Canache (No. 45, Flying Lizard Motorsports) in GTC.

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.