What to watch for: IndyCar at Detroit, Race 1

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BRUTAL BELLE ISLE

Much like Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, Detroit’s Belle Isle Park hides a grueling circuit beneath its beautiful setting. It’s a major shift for these drivers just one week after the Indianapolis 500. Ryan Briscoe’s explanation to the AP sums it up perfectly: “The Indy 500 is not a physical event, but it’s extremely mentally draining. In Detroit, you get beat up with all the bumps because this is one of the more physical circuits we come to and we race it twice in two days.”

INTRIGUE AT THE BACK

Today’s qualifying session saw multiple surprises with guys like Will Power (16th), 2013 Detroit Race 2 winner Simon Pagenaud (17th), and ‘500’ winner Ryan Hunter-Reay (21st) all failing to escape the first round. On a course as challenging as Belle Isle, that may be too big a mountain to climb in today’s 70-lapper. But these are three of the best road/street racers in the IndyCar paddock, and they’re going to give it their best shot.

AN ENCORE FOR MIKE CONWAY?

Last time Conway was in Ed Carpenter’s car was at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and damage sustained during the big start-line crash made for a disappointing result. But now he returns to Belle Isle, where in last year’s Race 1, he flat-out whipped the field in Dale Coyne’s second car. It may be too much to expect another tour de force performance from the Long Beach winner, but he can definitely take another checkered flag in the Motor City from fourth on the grid.

CHEVY VS. HONDA

You always have to bring this battle up any time IndyCar comes to GM’s backyard. And this, too: Honda has won all three Detroit races since this event’s revival in 2012. Last year was particularly grim for the Bowtie, with the Race 1 runner-up from Ryan Hunter-Reay (now a Honda man for Andretti Autosport) keeping Honda from sweeping all of the podium spots that weekend. In the ‘500’, Honda had four cars – all from Andretti – in the Top 6. The Chevy camp will be bent on stopping that momentum cold.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media
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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.