Still learning: Montoya tackles Phoenix oval in test session

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Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya is no stranger to Phoenix International Raceway. But for his second round of IndyCar testing with Team Penske on Tuesday, he might as well have been.

Because while it’s one thing to navigate “The Desert Jewel” with a heavy stock car, it’s quite another to do the same in an open-wheeler.

“We did some laps in the road car and said ‘In NASCAR, we brake here and here,'” Montoya said on Tuesday. “And [teammate Helio Castroneves] was like, ‘No, this is going to be wide open.’ I’m like, ‘What?'”

The point was driven home further to Montoya when he observed Castroneves zipping around the track.

“In the straight, it just goes fast, but you don’t really realize how fast he’s going until he turns and the thing just snaps into the corner,” he said. “And then you go into [Turns] Three and Four and you know – ‘Wow, your foot never moved.’

“For me, the big difference is the entry to the corner. Once you get to the middle of the corner, whatever speed you have, you are committed to. You can see the exit, too, and you’re like, ‘Ahhh…'”

Montoya later commented on the speed disparity between the IndyCars and the Cup cars around PIR on Twitter:

He was also complimentary of PIR, saying that “most of the ovals, and actually all of the tracks” should have such a driving experience like that of the one-mile oval.

On that note, PIR president Bryan Sperber continued to maintain his stance on a possible return by IndyCar to his facility, saying that “the ball is in their court.”

“Phoenix International Raceway began as an open-wheel track and we would love nothing more than to have open-wheel racing back at PIR in the future,” he said.

“I’ve been very honest with the management at IndyCar about what it would take to be able to run here…Hopefully, the interest in running at Phoenix International Raceway becomes sufficient enough that they would like to pursue that opportunity, but we don’t anticipate any immediate changes to our 2014 racing schedule.”

Photo Credit: John Hendrick/INDYCAR

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.