Despite “rough night,” Logano holds on to Chase berth

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Joey Logano may have been a lap down, but he took advantage of one final opportunity in order to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup on Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway.

A controversial spin from Clint Bowyer with seven laps to go in tonight’s Federated Auto Parts 400 brought out the yellow and bunched up the field. Logano rolled off 25th for the final restart with three laps left, but was able to gain three spots to finish 22nd, which proved enough to give him the final Top-10 berth in the Chase by just one point over the winless Jeff Gordon.

That final yellow also aided Logano in another way. Ryan Newman looked set to win in the closing laps, and if he had, he would’ve taken the second Wild Card spot and knocked Logano out of the post-season. But on Newman’s last stop, he dropped from the lead all the way to fifth place.

He couldn’t make up all of the lost ground and finished third – enabling Logano to make it into the Chase with the one position he grabbed in the last sprint to the checkered flag.

“Thank God for the last caution, I guess, because I think we were out before that,” a relieved Logano said after the race.

Logano had problems from the start on Saturday. He faded horribly in his opening stint, falling all the way to 25th before making his first pit stop at Lap 90.

The young New Englander was stuck in mid-pack for the rest of the night, and when Newman made his charge late to the front of the field, Logano was basically powerless to do anything in regards to his Chase hopes.

But then came Bowyer’s spin and one last shot to race for a championship. Logano made the most of it.

“It feels really good after having such a rough night,” he said. “Man, the car was just struggling all night, and I kept asking [crew chief] Todd [Gordon] where we were, if we were good, if we were bad, and he didn’t really answer me. So I don’t think that’s good.”

Logano had been one of the best drivers on the circuit going into Richmond, with a win, three Top-5s and six Top-10s in the six races leading up to Saturday.

With that in mind, he still felt good about his chances going forward in the Chase despite his difficulties in Virginia.

“All our finishes leading up to this race were really, really good,” he said. “I feel like we were the hottest team in NASCAR coming into this race. We’re going to try to take this momentum off of getting into the Chase here and let her rip and have some fun.”

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.