Matt Kenseth still winless but takes over Sprint Cup points lead

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A solid third-place finish on Sunday for Matt Kenseth enabled him to move to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings after previous leader Jeff Gordon faded late to a 15th-place result.

Going into next weekend’s Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway, Kenseth – who is still winless in 2014 – is up by by two points on Jeff Gordon (one win, Kansas) in the standings.

Kenseth wasn’t nearly as dominant on the day as eventual race winner Jimmie Johnson, but still had one more chance to catch him thanks to a late restart with four laps to go.

He lined up on the outside of Johnson for the restart, but spun the tires on his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota as Johnson went on to his ninth career win at Dover International Speedway.

“It was good, I mean, I thought the 48 (Johnson) and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) had us all day,” Kenseth said. “The 24 (Gordon) at times — all of the Hendrick cars were strong and Brad (Keselowski) got up there at the end.

“We had a good Top-5 car. I did an awful job on that last restart. Just got spinning the tires too much and the best car won. We just need to be a little bit better.”

Prior to that critical restart, Kenseth dodged a bullet on Lap 222, when rookie Alex Bowman hit the wall after a tire went down on him.

Coming up on the scene, Kenseth didn’t know if Bowman would slide down the track or stay up by the wall. In a split-second decision, Kenseth went high and narrowly squeezed through the wall and Bowman’s wounded Toyota.

“He blew a tire or something and I saw him blow a tire, and I was kind of running the middle and I didn’t know where he was going to go,” Kenseth said of the situation. “So I hit the brakes and locked up the left front (tire) and then I didn’t have any steering when the left front was locked up.

“Yeah, that would’ve looked pretty stupid to drive up and go through the back of him.”

Kenseth also survived a late run-in with Clint Bowyer after the aforementioned restart to give his team their eighth Top-10 finish in the last nine races.

Until Kenseth can break through for a win, he’ll need to stay as high up in the points as he can for now. But considering how consistent he’s been in the first half of the regular season, one figures that he’ll be taking a checkered flag soon enough.

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.