Offseason events confirmed for Mazda Road to Indy divisions

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Over the last week Andersen Promotions has confirmed two of the now-annual events on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

Last Thursday Andersen confirmed the third annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Open Test will occur December 9 and 10 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. The test features all three ladder series – Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 – and the event is named for the late Chris Griffis, a longtime crewmember and team manager for Sam Schmidt’s Lights team who died unexpectedly in September 2011.

Each of the first two years the test was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, but it shifts this year due to the necessary track alterations ahead of the IndyCar road race there next May.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, the promotional organization also announced details of the Cooper Tires Winterfest Championship, opening it up to Pro Mazda and Indy Lights after it had just been for USF2000 the last two years. $30,000 in prize money is on offer for both series.

USF2000 will race two tripleheaders (six races) and Pro Mazda two doubleheaders (four races). The first event will be at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, Feb. 21/22, and a few days later the two series shift to Barber on Feb. 25/26. All four days will also feature open testing for Indy Lights.

This is all the latest steps the Andersen Promotions group, led by Dan Andersen, is taking to unify and market the Mazda Road to Indy as one cohesive unit under a single umbrella. All three series will also race on Cooper tires next year; Cooper replaces Firestone for Indy Lights in 2014.

“It’s amazing what Dan Andersen has created in such a short time,” Chris Pantani, Director of Motorsports for Cooper Tire said in a release. “By unifying the Mazda Road to Indy, the growth and awareness of the entire open-wheel program seems to be at an all-time high, but we all know that it’s just the beginning and Cooper Tire is proud to be part of that growth.”

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.