Setting stage for ‘magnitude’ of Memorial Day motorsports weekend

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To preview this week’s more than 50 hours of motorsports content across the NBC Sports Group platforms, five members of the NBC broadcast family outlined some of the key storylines from Monaco, Indianapolis and Charlotte on a conference call.

Lead Formula One announcer Leigh Diffey and analyst David Hobbs joined from Monaco, where the broadcast team is on site to call this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix (Sunday, 7:30 a.m. ET, NBC). Both stressed the importance of qualifying on the narrow, twisty street circuit that at just over 2 miles, is the shortest on the F1 calendar.

“The thing about Monaco, like the Indy 500 – this is the race they all want to win,” Hobbs said. “One of the big problems here is qualifying. It’s so narrow. If you put a wheel over the edge, well the edge is the guardrail. You have to be extremely precise all weekend, as it’s extremely difficult to overtake.”

“It puts a premium on our Saturday qualifying show, because qualifying here generally transitions to a good result,” added Diffey.

Meanwhile from Indy, IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell described some of the challenges he’ll face while racing in this year’s Indianapolis 500. He’ll start 25th Sunday in the No. 6 Robert Graham-Royal Purple-Beneteau USA Chevrolet for KV Racing Technology.

“It’s gonna be fast and furious as everyone tries to refine,” Bell said of the Carb Day practice, which will be live at 11 a.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN. “This one hour is really important to show how you do in traffic. With the freight train of 20-plus cars, there’s a vicious turbulent air. It’s a critical session with pit stop practice and plugging in. I’m looking forward to doing the practice then head to the booth to cover the pit stop competition.”

Bell offered additional insights on being both an analyst and driver this month, in this separate piece.

In Charlotte, Jeff Burton is semi-retired as he balances his analyst hat for NBC’s NASCAR coverage with sporadic starts in the No. 66 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing. Burton described the level of all three events and how from a NASCAR standpoint, you’re watching upwards of six hours of open-wheel action during the day before settling into the longest NASCAR race of the year at 600 miles.

“I’m struck by this weekend, because it’s not just three events, but the magnitude is so large,” he said. “It’s funny – with the Indianapolis 500, the end of that happens right as the driver’s meeting for the 600 starts. We’re always wondering, ‘Can we show the end of the 500 during the meeting?’ But then we wouldn’t pay attention!”

NBC Sports Group executive producer Sam Flood also joined the call. A breakdown of all times, channels and streaming for this weekend’s action can be found in this post.

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.