Watkins Glen not very hospitable to Danica Patrick: First, motor breaks, then she wrecks in practice

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Heading into this weekend, Watkins Glen International threw out the welcome mat for Danica Patrick, but then abruptly pulled it back twice on Friday.

It was bad enough that Patrick was slated to start Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at The Glen from the back of the 43-car field due to an engine change in her No. 10 Chevrolet after Friday’s first of two practice sessions.

But then things went from bad to worse in the last two minutes of the second practice session late Friday afternoon.

Patrick was coming out of the carousel on the nearly 2.5-mile road course when she plowed head on into a tire wall. According to Fox Sports 1, it was a cut left front tire that prevented her from turning.

As a result, the engine change became secondary in nature as Patrick will now have to go to a back-up car for Saturday’s qualifying session and Sunday’s race day.

Patrick apparently caused some damage to the motor in her car after reportedly missing a shift and causing the engine to over-rev during the first 90-minute practice session, SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli told NASCAR.com.

The damage apparently was significant enough that the team had to change the engine, thus relegating her to the back of the field in Sunday’s race, regardless of how she qualifies Saturday.

The only benefit for Patrick for a good qualifying run Saturday would be she could earn a better pit stall than last on pit road.

Patrick, who finished 20th in her Sprint Cup debut at The Glen last season, was no faster than 32nd-fastest during Friday’s first practice on the nearly 2.5-mile road course before her wreck.

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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.