NASCAR: Kyle Larson fastest in 1st Sprint Cup practice at Bristol

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With less than 10 minutes to go, Kyle Larson posted a lap of 131.083 miles per hour to earn top honors in this morning’s first Sprint Cup practice session at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Larson, who finished 10th at Bristol in the spring, enters this weekend having to recover from a wreck last Sunday at Michigan that knocked him off of the Chase Grid with three races to go in the regular season.

The Chip Ganassi Racing rookie is 19th in the Chase standings at 24 points behind 16th-place Greg Biffle.

“After Michigan, finishing dead last there with that blown right front, that made us stress out a lot and now we kinda really have to get a win,” Larson told Fox Sports this afternoon. “I think that’s our only shot of getting in the Chase now unless we get Top-5s in these next three [races].

“But we’ve got a fast Target Chevy here in practice, so I think this could be a place where we could get a win.”

Three of the Top 5 drivers in first practice were powered by Hendrick engines – Larson, third-place Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (130.504), and fifth-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. of Hendrick Motorsports (130.132).

Running in second behind Larson was the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Denny Hamlin (130.557). A second Toyota driver, Michael Waltrip Racing’s Brian Vickers, wound up fourth on the speed charts (130.495).

Toyota Racing Development president David Wilson acknowledged this week that his company is trying to make up a power deficit before the Chase, but power should not matter so much this weekend at Bristol’s half-mile.

Aric Almirola of Richard Petty Motorsports was the fastest Ford in sixth (130.132). Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Bristol spring race winner Carl Edwards, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the Top 10 drivers.

Final Sprint Cup practice is set to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Bristol – First Practice Times

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.