Another Talladega surprise in store this weekend?

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Anything can happen at Talladega Superspeedway, where last year’s Sprint Cup races brought about two surprise winners.

And with this year’s overhaul of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, a dark horse springing an upset doesn’t just mean pulling one over on the big boys.

It could very well mean being able to fight for a championship.

Last spring at ‘Dega, David Ragan and David Gilliland pulled off a 1-2 finish for the small Front Row Motorsports team, while Jamie McMurray earned his first Sprint Cup win in three years when he took the checkers there last fall.

But that’s not the only time Talladega’s free-for-all nature has yielded a shock result.

Take the 2009 spring race, where a young Brad Keselowski led only one lap – the final lap – in earning his inaugural Cup win for the Phoenix Racing team.

Keselowski was a ways off from the leaders before he hooked up with Carl Edwards in the draft. At the white flag, the two had taken the lead but as they headed for the checkered flag in the tri-oval, Keselowski went inside and turned Edwards, who was hit by another competitor and sent skyward into the catch fence.

An equally memorable ‘Dega finish came in the fall of 2006 as Brian Vickers was chasing then-Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap.

But down the backstretch, Vickers moved with Johnson to the inside and tapped him, which sent Johnson spinning into Earnhardt.

When the ensuing caution froze the field, Vickers was found to be leading the way and was awarded his own first win in the Cup Series – much to the annoyance of the heavy Earnhardt fan base in the grandstands.

Will we see another unexpected result this weekend? It’d only be fitting at Talladega, which has taught us time and again to expect the unexpected.

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.