Dixon up 25 points on Helio as final battle looms at Fontana

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With one race remaining in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship, only two drivers remain in the title hunt: Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves.

Dixon’s runner-up finish in today’s Race 2 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston (won by Will Power) enabled him to move ahead of Castroneves by 25 points as the focus shifts to the season-ending MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway outside Los Angeles in two weeks.

If Dixon can finish fifth or better in that event, he’ll secure his third career IndyCar title (2003, 2008).

“I think we had a good shot of making the points level coming out of here, but to make that gain – I think we as a team knew we had the potential of winning both races, especially on street courses at the moment,” Dixon said. “But you can never predict how the competition’s gonna be or the problems they may have.

“It’s still going to come down to the wire – a last lap, last corner kind of situation that we all expect…It’s going to be a fun race. We have a lot of work to do, but we’ve got to go in with the mindset of winning the race. If we can do that or be on the podium, job accomplished.”

After being forced to endure a lengthy repair to replace a gear cluster in Saturday’s Race 1, Castroneves suffered mechanical issues again on Sunday – this time with the gearbox housing on his car.

His Team Penske crew was able to get him back on the track at Lap 47, but he only improved one spot during the remaining laps and finished 23rd. Still, in a tight championship battle such as this, every position counts for something.

“We’ve had great luck for most of the season,” said Castroneves, who had led the championship by 49 points going into the Houston doubleheader. “Now in a weekend, everybody’s dream has become an interesting scenario.

“I will tell you one thing: This team is a testament to never giving up, and I have faith in these guys that they are going to do everything they can to make it happen in Fontana.”

As for Simon Pagenaud, his bid for the championship came to a close this afternoon, as his sixth-place finish was not enough to keep him in contention. The Frenchman needed to be within 54 points of the leader after today’s race to have any shot going into Fontana; instead, he’s 55 points back.

Nonetheless, he’s still capable of finishing runner-up in the championship, which would mark a considerable improvement from his fifth-place showing last year.

IZOD IndyCar Series
Unofficial Championship Points after Race 2, Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston

Scott Dixon – 546
Helio Castroneves – 521
Simon Pagenaud – 491
Justin Wilson – 460
Marco Andretti – 457
Ryan Hunter-Reay – 446
Will Power – 444
Dario Franchitti – 418
James Hinchcliffe – 417
Charlie Kimball – 406

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.