Ken Roczen wins Moto 2 at Muddy Creek, takes third 450 Class Motocross overall victory

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James Stewart may have stolen the headlines recently for both on-track and off-track reasons, but at the Red Bull Tennessee National, it was Ken Roczen returning to his early-season form and showing why he’s the current points leader. On the heels of a solid second-place finish in the first 450 Class moto, Roczen took the victory in Moto 2 to secure his third overall victory of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season.

Roczen and his Red Bull KTM teammate Ryan Dungey were the head of the class in both motos at Muddy Creek Raceway. Roczen had a strong opportunity to win the first moto after moving past Eli Tomac on the opening lap to take over the lead, but a series of mistakes hampered Roczen’s chances throughout the race. The young German went down on Lap 2, giving up the lead and getting passed by Dungey in the process. Dungey and Roczen would end the moto 1-2.

The second moto was all about Roczen though. Despite the fact that Dungey raced to the MotoSport.com Holeshot, Roczen was soon right up on his rear wheel applying the pressure. The two teammates went back-and-forth during the first lap, racing side-by-side at times, and Roczen ultimately emerged in front and shut the door on Dungey. From there, Roczen would go on to lead the rest of the moto wire-to-wire, locking up both the moto win and the overall win for the day. Dungey kept it close throughout, but the two riders left the rest of the field in the dust.

“Felt good out there,” Roczen said after his moto win. “Happy it’s over. Another good weekend and [I] kept the points lead steady.”

Had Dungey been able to pass Roczen in Moto 2, he would have been able to take a huge chunk out of Roczen’s points lead, but he just couldn’t match the speed of his teammate. “Man, I pushed it the whole second moto,” Dungey remarked afterwards. “We gave it all we had, and that’s all I can do.”

Because he and Dungey swapped 1-2 finishes today, Roczen’s points lead over Dungey will hold steady at 16 points. The two riders were able to distance themselves a bit from James Stewart though, who had been inching closer but endured crashes in both motos en route to disappointing 5-11 moto finishes.

One rider who did perform well today was Eli Tomac. Coming back from a broken collarbone, the GEICO Honda rider was impressive in his first-ever race in the 450 Class. Hours after posting the fastest lap in qualifying, last year’s champion of the 250 Class raced to third-place finishes in both motos to secure a spot on the overall podium and could be even more of a factor as the season winds on.

Red Bull Tennessee National 450 Class Overall Results
1. Ken Roczen (2-1)
2. Ryan Dungey (1-2)
3. Eli Tomac (3-3)
4. Trey Canard (4-4)
5. Andrew Short (6-8)
6. Weston Peick (10-5)
7. Brett Metcalfe (9-7)
8. James Stewart (5-11)
9. Josh Grant (11-6)
10. Justin Brayton (8-15)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds