Kurt Busch, Furniture Row Racing out to make history

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Since the inception of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, a single-car team has never been able to break into NASCAR’s “playoff” stretch. Tonight at Richmond International Raceway, that could all change.

Kurt Busch and Furniture Row Racing control their own destiny in the Federated Auto Parts 400, which Busch will start from the outside of the front row. Should “The Outlaw” notch his first victory of the season tonight, he’ll have the chance to battle for a second Sprint Cup title.

And for himself and FRR, the single-car squad based out of the Mile High City of Denver, Colorado, making the Chase would also stand as a massive victory for the underdog in a sport that’s dominated by multi-car powerhouses.

But while Busch would regard such an accomplishment as a big one, he isn’t racing for 10th in the Cup standings, either.

“Championships are what every driver sets out to achieve,” Busch said Thursday at Richmond. “When they’re building a team, they want to win championships.”

First thing’s first, though, and for Busch and the No. 78 FRR team, that’s making sure to stay within the Top 10 of the standings tonight so they can get in the post-season. Busch holds the 10th spot on the table, but has no wins this year and only has six points between him and 11th place Jeff Gordon.

At several points this season, Busch looked in position to take the checkered flag only to have various issues keep him from doing so. But he doesn’t like to play the “what if” game. All that matters now is tonight.

“We’re here to make the Chase with the 78 car,” he said. “Two weeks ago at Bristol, we had a right rear [wheel] hub failure. That put us up against the fence. We knew at that point Atlanta and Richmond would be the two most important races of the 78 car’s career.”

Busch got the first part down with a fourth-place finish at Atlanta last Saturday night that was fueled by a brilliant late restart. He reckons that restarts will once again play a key role in tonight’s race.

Another possible factor? Pit road. Busch’s FRR team has had its share of pit woes during the year, but Busch is still confident that his crew will shine when they need to.

“I see this coming down to a pit stop or two, down to a restart at the end,” he said. “I know they’re going to put their best stop down when it counts, because we know the whole season rides on this weekend.”

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.