Pirelli World Challenge: O’Connell, Roush Jr. win Long Beach poles

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Johnny O’Connell earned the GT pole and Jack Roush Jr. did the same in the GTS class ahead of tomorrow’s Pirelli World Challenge race on the streets of Long Beach.

O’Connell (No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V.R) set a new GT track record with a time of 1:20.386, toppling the previous mark of 1:21.087 set by James Sofronas last year.

His Cadillac Racing teammate, Andy Pilgrim, will start alongside him on the GT front row after logging a time of 1:20.633.

As for Roush Jr. (No. 60 ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302R), he too set a track record in GTS with his lap of 1:27.325. That eclipsed Andy Lee’s old record of 1:27.662, which was set last year.

Nic Jonsson (No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima) earned P2 on the GTS grid for tomorrow’s race thanks to his time of 1:27.509. St. Petersburg GTS winner and defending GTS class champion Lawson Aschenbach qualified third with a 1:27.512 in his No. 1 Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro.

Fastest in the GT-A subcategory for gentlemen drivers was Nick Mancuso (No. 16 R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 Italia), who will start 7th on the GT grid after posting a 1:21.329.

World-ChallengeTV.com will stream tomorrow’s race starting at 7 p.m. ET, while NBCSN will air the race broadcast next Sunday, April 20, at 5:30 p.m. ET.

PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE – LONG BEACH
Qualifying Results

GT Class
1. No. 3 – Johnny O’Connell, Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V R, 1:20.386, 88.1347 mph
2. No. 8 – Andy Pilgrim, Cadillac Racing Cadillac CTS-V R, 1:20.633, 87.864 mph
3. No. 61 – Anthony Lazzaro, R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 1:20.698, 87.794 mph
4. No. 9 – Alex Figge, K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3, 1:20.729, 87.760 mph
5. No. 21 – Andrew Palmer, GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, 1:20.964, 87.505 mph
6. No. 6 – Robert Thorne, K-PAX Racing McLaren 12C GT3, 1:21.144, 87.311 mph
7. No. 16 – Nick Mancuso(A), R.Ferri Motorsports Ferrari 458 GT3, 1:21.329, 87.112 mph
8. No. 14 – James Sofronas, Spyder/The Thermal Club Audi R8 Ultra, 1:21.629 86.792 mph
9. No. 2 – Mike Skeen, Hawk Performance Audi R8 Ultra, 1:21.756, 86.657 mph
10. No. 31 – Tim Bergmeister, EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3R, 1:22.137, 86.255 mph
11. No. 64 – Mike Hedlund, DragonSpeed/ESM Ferrari 458 GT3 Italia, 1:22.181, 86.209 mph
12. No. 10 – Henrik Hedman(A), DragonSpeed Ferrari 458 GT3, 1:22.422, 85.957 mph
13. No. 41 – Michael Mills(A), EFFORT Racing Porsche GT3R, 1:22.648, 85.722 mph
14. No. 44 – Brent Holden(A), GMG Racing Audi R8 Ultra, 1:23.146, 85.209 mph
15. No. 80 – Dan Knox(A), ACS MFG/Performance SpeedTech SRT Viper GT3R, 1:23.377, 84.973 mph
16. No. 32 – Bret Curtis(A), Spectra/United Steel/Valspar Audi R8 Ultra, 1:23.645, 84.700 mph
17. No. 99 – Jeff Courtney(A), Kenda/RecStuff.com Audi R8 Ultra, 1:24.058, 84.284 mph
18. No. 54 – Tim Pappas(A), Black River Caviar Mercedes AMG SLS GT3, 1:24.136, 84.206 mph
19. No. 15 – Tomy Drissi, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Aston Martin GT3, 1:24.462, 83.881 mph
20. No. 95 – Bill Ziegler(A), Swisher Racing/GMG Audi R8 Ultra, 1:25.354, 83.004 mph
(A) denotes GT-A subcategory drivers

GTS Class
1. No. 60 – Jack Roush Jr., ROUSH Road Racing Ford Mustang Boss302R, 1:27.325, 81.131 mph
2. No. 36 – Nic Jonsson, Kia Motors America Kia Optima, 1:27.509, 80.960 mph
3. No. 1 – Lawson Aschenbach, Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, 1:27.512, 80.958 mph
4. No. 33 – Tony Buffomante, Capaldi Racing/Ford Racing Ford Mustang Boss302S, 1:27.862, 80.635 mph
5. No. 73 – Jack Baldwin, RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S, 1:27.871, 80.627 mph
6. No. 17 – Alec Udell, Watson Racing Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:28.297, 80.238 mph
7. No. 38 – Mark Wilkins, Kia Motors America Kia Optima, 1:28.328, 80.210 mph
8. No. 20 – Andy Lee, Crown7.com/BestIT Racing Chevrolet Camaro, 1:28.331, 80.207 mph
9. No. 52 – David Sterckx, BG Reach Out Worldwide Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:28.568, 79.992 mph
10. No. 02 – Drew Regitz, TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4, 1:28.814, 79.771 mph
11. No. 96 – Brad Adams, VoodooMusic/DatDog/Yo MTVRaps! Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:29.206, 79.420 mph
12. No. 51 – Ric Bushey, Nissan/Motul/SPL/OSGiken Nissan 370Z, 1:29.436, 79.216 mph
13. No. 97 – Mitch Landry, VersaCrane/DeepSouth Ford Mustang Boss 302S, 1:29.558, 79.108 mph
14. No. 11 – Tony Gaples, BlackDog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro, 1:29.594, 79.076 mph
15. No. 01 – Don Istook, Forge Motorsports/Recaro Audi TTRS, 1:29.934, 78.777 mph
16. No. 40 – Geoff Reeves, BestIT/Bondurant School Chevrolet Camaro, 1:31.335, 77.569 mph
17. No. 75 – Erik Davis, Reach Out Worldwide Ford Mustang Boss302S, 1:31.611, 77.335 mph
18. No. 72 – Buz McCall, RESET-MD/StopTech/Motul Porsche Cayman S, 1:32.443, 76.639 mph
19. No. 34 – Nick Esayian, Natural Cures Aston Martin GT4, 1:34.147, 75.252 mph
20. No. 04 – Jorge De La Torre, TRG-AMR North America Aston Martin GT4, 1:37.469, 72.687 mph

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”