IndyCar update: Halfway home in time-shortened Barber race

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The 100-minute, rain-delayed and now rain-shortened Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is halfway home. A few moments of note have happened in the opening 25-plus circuits for the third round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Polesitter Will Power led from the off, and stretched his lead north of five seconds running laps in the 1:19 range while others were in the 1:20s and 1:21s at Barber Motorsports Park.

But Power ran wide at Turn 5 and traversed through the gravel and grass, rejoining in second behind Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led until the second caution of the race prior to Lap 17, when Sebastien Bourdais made contact with Mikhail Aleshin into Turn 5, spinning the Russian rookie.

All cars except Oriol Servia, who’d made himself the guinea pig to switch from wets onto Firestone’s red alternate slick tires, took the opportunity to pit. On that sequence Helio Castroneves pitted in the wrong box; he was issued a stop-and-go penalty for the infraction.

During the caution, Carlos Munoz spun out exiting Turn 5, damaging his Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda entry beyond repair. Incidentally, the Colombian rookie was also involved in an incident under caution at St. Petersburg.

Bourdais got a drive-through penalty as well for his avoidable contact with Aleshin. Shortly after the restart, then led by Sebastian Saavedra who’d opted not to pit, Juan Pablo Montoya went off course through the Turn 10-11 sequence and brought a gravel-laden PPG Chevrolet back to the pits. It marred what had been a great opening sequence for him, rising to fourth and posting the same times as Power and Hunter-Reay up front.

Saavedra led at lap 28 from Hunter-Reay, Power, Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti. Bourdais had been sixth prior to his penalty ahead of James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and Justin Wilson. Tony Kanaan, who started 23rd and last, was up to 11th.

More to come the rest of this race on NBCSN.

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.