Dover Update: Johnson, Kenseth going at it for lead

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Jimmie Johnson was narrowly ahead of Chase for the Sprint Cup leader Matt Kenseth at the halfway point of today’s AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Pole sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the first 25 laps of the race before Kenseth was able to pass him for the point on Lap 26. The two swapped the lead again before the first yellow of the day came out for debris at Lap 37.

During the subsequent pit stops, Earnhardt fell back to fifth after taking four tires while the top four off of pit road – Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Martin Truex Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya – all took two tires.

Busch, who has finished second to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kenseth in each of the first two Chase races, promptly opened a gap of almost two seconds before Ryan Newman started to chop the deficit.

On Lap 71, Newman was able to reel in Busch and pass him for the lead on the frontstretch. But just five laps later, Earnhardt – after dusting Busch for the runner-up position – returned to the front once again, getting by Newman on the backstretch to reach P1.

Earnhardt built his lead up to more than four seconds as green flag stops began just after the Lap 100 mark. But when he attempted to come down to pit road on Lap 117, he missed the opening and was forced to go around one more time before pitting.

As a result, Johnson and Kenseth moved up to the top two positions while Earnhardt dropped back to eighth place thanks to his early mistake.

Johnson, a seven-time Dover race winner, put some distance between himself and Kenseth in the stint but when the yellow came out again for debris at Lap 165, Kenseth was able to leapfrog Johnson in the pits and take the lead.

However, Johnson was able to hunt down Kenseth in the middle stages of the green flag run, and passed him for the lead on Lap 198. At Lap 200 of 400, Kenseth led Johnson by 0.7 seconds followed by Busch in third, Earnhardt in fourth and Newman in fifth.

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.