RLL duo notch double Top-10s in Houston Race 1

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For the first time since the June doubleheader at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s tandem of James Jakes (pictured) and Graham Rahal both came away with Top 10 finishes in yesterday’s first race of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

Jakes, who finished sixth after starting ninth, was able to overcome a pit miscue in which a radio miscommunication caused him to enter the pits for his first stop – only to have his No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts crew not be ready to service his car.

That forced the Englishman to come back in on the following lap, sending him to the rear of the field. But with the help of some timely yellows and hard driving on his part, Jakes was able to claw his way back up the pylon during the remainder of the 90-lap event.

“We managed to pick a lot of people off [in the first stint] and the car was working well but then we had a miscommunication in the pits and did an extra pit stop than we needed to,” Jakes said. “We had to work our way up from there. It’s a shame because I think without that we could have been on the podium. We will see what [today] brings.”

The sixth-place run also snapped an extended cold streak for Jakes, who had not banked a Top-10 run since placing second in Race 2 of the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit. Additionally, he had bowed out early from the two previous races at Sonoma and Baltimore due to mechanical problems.

As for Rahal, he turned in a stellar performance, rocketing from 24th starting position to seventh at the finish in a drive that may have impressed his primary backer for the weekend, Blu Electronic Cigarettes (which has a major presence in the paddock this weekend at Reliant Park).

Adding more impressiveness to Rahal’s effort is that he was one of several drivers that were assessed a 10-spot grid penalty for an unapproved engine change on his No. 15 Honda.

“To go from 24th to seventh is always a good day – you can’t complain,” Rahal said. “I think we could have, and should have had [Jakes] and [fifth-place Josef] Newgarden there at the end but ran out of time. There was some close racing there so I just figured I would be a little bit smarter and lift off.”

With this morning’s qualifying session for Race 2 canceled due to heavy rains, both drivers will have to start toward the back once again as the grid will be set by entrant points. Rahal will go off 18th, Jakes from 20th.

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.