Josef Newgarden shakes stress, leads Monday practice at Indy

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After going through the nerve-wracking exercise of Indianapolis 500 qualifying over the weekend, Josef Newgarden said he found it “really weird” to return to the cockpit this afternoon for practice.

However, the Tennessee native was nonetheless able to top today’s session with a lap of 227.105 mph in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

In April, this extra practice session was added to the ‘500’ schedule so teams could focus on race set-ups after going all-in on qualifying.

But Newgarden, who qualified 8th on Sunday, still found the situation a bit strange to him.

“I was about done after this qualifying format that we had this weekend,” he said. “It was so stressful and tiring, so mentally fatiguing. I think everyone felt that way. Everyone I talked to, including guys like Simon Pagenaud, were so stressed to the max from these [past] two days. But that’s a good thing.

“I think you should have that at Indy. You should have that stress factor that you have to get through.”

And Newgarden was also grateful to have the extra track time as the usual Month of May rains impacted several practice sessions last week leading up to qualifying.

“It was helpful to have a day to work on the car before Friday on Carb Day, because you’re quite limited, you only have an hour on Carb Day,” he said. “So whatever you’re doing pretty much needs to be done.

“You don’t have time to really work on it on Carb Day. It’s more about preparing yourself for the race environment. Everyone’s going to be running like it’s the race and you kind of get yourself set up for that.

“You’re not really working on the car, whereas today, we were able to work on the car and refine what we needed to…For us, it was very helpful and I’m sure it was the same for everyone up and down the field.”

Juan Pablo Montoya was second-quickest in the No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet behind Newgarden with a lap of 226.532 mph. Scott Dixon was third at 226.433, followed by rookie Mikhail Aleshin in fourth (226.371) and defending ‘500’ champion Tony Kanaan in fifth (226.336).

An interesting note from today’s session is that Honda teams opted to stay off the track late in the running. Former NBCSN IndyCar announcer Bob Jenkins reported over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s PA system that it was due to Honda looking into a fuel leak that developed on Marco Andretti’s car.

The next time the IndyCars will see the track will be on Carb Day this Friday at IMS. NBCSN will have coverage of the festivities starting at 11 a.m. ET.

INDIANAPOLIS 500 – PRACTICE NO. 9 TIMES

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.