Kyle Larson: I’m “really close” to first Sprint Cup victory

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He may not be in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup, but Kyle Larson showed during last weekend’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway that he may yet have an impact on the post-season.

The talented rookie once again came close to capturing his inaugural Sprint Cup victory before finishing third behind winner Brad Keselowski and Jeff Gordon.

He could be in position once again to take that first Cup checkered flag this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he finished third in July.

And for his part, Larson believes he’s on the cusp of the breakthrough he badly wants.

“I definitely feel like we’re really close,” he said before running fifth in this morning’s Cup practice at NHMS. “We’ve been close a couple times this year. Heck, we were just a little bit off on it at Fontana and then I thought we had the best or second-best car last week, so if I could’ve done things right, we could have two wins this season.

“But I think it’s coming. I hope it’s before the end of this year, but if not, we won’t be too disappointed. We’ve been running well all season long. I didn’t win any Nationwide races last year, and I feel like I’ve been really competitive this year in Nationwide, so I’m sure the start of next year will be really good in the Cup Series.”

Larson has made such strides this season in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet that it seems only a matter of time before we’ll see him celebrating in Victory Lane.

Additionally, the amount of respect from his veteran counterparts on the track has grown noticeably as well. Just look back to last weekend, when Gordon walked up to Larson after the race and congratulated him on a job well done before hailing him as someone who will be “a star in this series for a long time.”

Larson thinks that being able to “give and take” on the track with the veteran drivers – particularly those involved in the Chase – has allowed him to earn this level of respect that doesn’t always get afforded to rookies like himself.

“If you race ’em hard but don’t make any mistakes around them that costs them, you gain respect that way – and I feel like I race hard every week,” he said. “We’ve been lucky enough to not affect anybody, and hopefully, it stays like that…You give and take throughout the race, and then you race ’em hard but clean – that’s how you gain the most respect.”

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.