Michigan Update: Kurt Busch hunting for critical win

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Trying to solidify his chances of earning a Chase berth, Kurt Busch is putting together a strong afternoon and leads the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway at the halfway point.

Busch took the lead for the first time at Lap 32 as he and Dale Earnhardt Jr. took advantage of lapped traffic momentarily holding up pole sitter Joey Logano. His first stop of the day at Lap 42 was a slow one and cost him several spots when the cycle played out, but his Furniture Row Racing crew made up for it by netting him several positions on stop No. 2 under caution at Lap 72.

Shortly after the restart at Lap 76, Busch dispatched Denny Hamlin (who had stayed out under the yellow) to take the lead and at Lap 100 of 200, Busch had opened up a two-second lead on Brad Keselowski, another winless driver that’s battling to make the Chase. Logano has stayed steady and was running third at halfway, followed by Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick.

A potential threat for the win went away in the first half of the event, when Jimmie Johnson suffered engine problems and was knocked out of the race. Johnson had to start from the rear of the field after crashing his primary car in final practice, but had managed to move into the Top 10 in his backup car before his motor went south.

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.