Dale Jr. glad to see statement on Hamlin, fine with NASCAR’s medical process

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Shortly after Dale Earnhardt Jr. sounded off on the lack of news regarding the condition of Denny Hamlin, word came that Hamlin had been cleared for this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway after doctors removed a sliver of metal from his eye.

Before today’s first practice session at Martinsville, Earnhardt said that the statement from Hamlin had eased his concerns about unfounded speculations regarding the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s health.

“I thought a lack of a statement from Denny’s point of view left him vulnerable and unprotected (from speculation),” Earnhardt said to reporters. “I just felt like it was important for him to have a very simple statement that sort of cleared up any kind of assumptions or whatever you have for him, personally.

“That was good, I thought, on his behalf to do that as quickly as he could.”

JGR had initially said Hamlin was suffering from a vision-impairing sinus infection, which kept him out of last Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in California (Sam Hornish Jr. drove his car in a fill-in role). The decision to keep him out was revealed within an hour of the green flag.

He was taken to a local hospital and was released later that same evening.

The episode has caused some NASCAR observers, including USA Today’s Jeff Gluck, to call for the sanctioning body to install a traveling group of physicians to take care of the drivers (the series does have a traveling group of nurses, but doctors are usually chosen by each track).

However, Earnhardt believes that NASCAR’s medical process is fine.

I feel great about the process and what NASCAR has had in place for years,” he said. “They bring in the best people from that region that have the best connections to the hospitals in that region. If I am in trouble, I know I am going to be somewhere I am going to be taken care of very quickly.

“NASCAR has a team that travels and has all the information on our health and it is updated weekly if it needs to be. So I like the system we have in place, I feel like it’s adequate and I’m happy Denny is cleared and ready to race this weekend.”

Hamlin is scheduled to meet with the media at Martinsville later today.

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.