Is tonight the night for Tony Stewart to punch his Chase ticket?

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With nine races to go in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ regular season, Tony Stewart has yet to win and claim a berth in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Right now, Stewart is outside the Top 16 cutoff point of the Chase Grid. He’s five points behind Kasey Kahne and 13 points behind Clint Bowyer, who occupies the 16th Grid position.

But tonight may be his night at Daytona International Speedway, which has been a stronghold for Smoke over the years.

While Stewart has yet to earn a Daytona 500 win, he has won 19 events at the World Center of Racing across Sprint Cup points and non-points races, Nationwide Series races, and IROC races.

And among those 19 victories are four of them in the Coke Zero 400, which is expected to go off around 7:30 p.m. ET tonight (weather permitting). Those four Daytona summer wins are the most among active Cup drivers, and in the last two Daytona summer races, Stewart has finished first (2012) and second (2013).

Out of all the winless drivers that are still battling for the post-season, Stewart has to be the favorite to emerge from this group and take the checkered flag. But as he alluded to this week, luck will be every bit as important as skill in these 400 miles.

“Someone described racing on the superspeedways of being a combination of a science project and the luck of a casino, and it’s exactly that way,” he said in a release.

“You do everything in your power to take care of the science or technology side. You do everything you can to build the fastest car. If you don’t have the luck to go with it – even if you don’t have any drama with getting the car touched, nothing happens to the car – if you’re just in the wrong spot at the wrong time, it can take you out of the opportunity to take the best race car in the field and win.”

He also noted the importance of recognizing how the draft will impact his car and in what ways.

“You just try getting in different scenarios and try to learn if you get in the middle of the draft, what does it do?,” he said. “Will it give you a push? Will it not give you a push? If you get next to this car, does it suck you up or does it slow you down?

“It’s trial and error, but at the same time, it’s like pulling a pin on a grenade. You know through that process that if one guy makes a mistake, your car’s torn up. It’s just a delicate balance of how hard you go, how many things you try, and how much time you spend doing it.”

Stewart will roll off 12th in this evening’s race, which is an opportunity to secure a Daytona win for a 10th consecutive season. But more importantly, it’s an opportunity to ensure a chance at a fourth Sprint Cup title in the fall.

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.