IndyCar: Bourdais on top in GP of Indy first practice

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The first 45-minute practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series kicked off, officially, the festivities as IndyCar christens the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis race weekend.

Sebastien Bourdais knocked off one of his two French countrymen in the race – Simon Pagenaud – with the first lap of the weekend in the 1:10 range at 1:10.9335, then lowered the mark even more with a 1:10.5150 on his 20th lap of the session in the No. 11 Mistic Electronic Cigarettes Chevrolet for KVSH Racing.

Old Long Beach sparring partners Pagenaud and Will Power were 1-2 for most of the session, with Pagenaud clocking in his best time of 1:11.0045 in the No. 77 Charter Communications/Oculus Honda for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.

But while Pagenaud had the edge, with under two minutes to go, Bourdais went to the top of the time sheets. Barber winner Ryan Hunter-Reay joined him in the 1:10 range, at 1:10.9053.

Pagenaud ended third and late in the session Josef Newgarden (1:11.0188) and Scott Dixon (1:11.0454) jumped into the top five. Mikhail Aleshin, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Briscoe, Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth completed the top 10.

Before Bourdais’ late flier, the top 22 of 25 runners were within 0.8665 of a second, down to Graham Rahal in 22nd. But by the end of the session, only the top 16 were within a second, down to Carlos Huertas in P16 and 0.9075 of a second back.

First-time drivers this year Franck Montagny (21st) and Martin Plowman (22nd) were within 1.1470 and 1.1776 of Bourdais, respectively.

Newgarden lost control in Turn 4 early in the session, and was the first driver to have an unscheduled appointment with the gravel trap on corner exit. He was towed out and brought into the pit lane for the first red flag of the session.

A second red flag, much briefer, flew later in the session for a brief loss of power in race control. Can’t say as I’ve written that one before.

Not many drivers were able to turn laps early in the 45-minute session; within the first 20 minutes, only Bourdais (6 laps), Plowman (5) and Rahal (5) had completed 5 laps or more on the 2.439-mile road course. Bourdais’ 21 led all runners, with Rahal also posting 20 and the rest anywhere from 10 to 18 laps.

The second 45-minute practice runs from 2 to 2:45 p.m. EDT. In the meantime, here’s times from Practice 1, which ran under near perfect conditions of sunny, 75 degrees ambient with a track temperature of 88.

PDF HERE, VISUALS BELOW.

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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.