Pagenaud: “It’s a tremendous opportunity for my career”

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When Roger Penske calls, you have to listen. And that was the overriding point Simon Pagenaud made Monday afternoon, in making the shift to join Team Penske as the fourth member of its Verizon IndyCar Series team.

“It’s definitely the next step in my career,” Pagenaud said during a Team Penske conference call Monday. “I’ve worked my whole life for this, so it’s perfect timing. Helio (Castroneves), Will (Power) and Juan (Pablo Montoya) – having three teammates like them is a huge help as a driver to complete yourself. I’m very excited. It’s a tremendous opportunity for my career.”

While it is a four-driver lineup, immediate focus will shift on Pagenaud and Power being under the same roof.

The two were teammates during Pagenaud’s first full year in the Champ Car series, in 2007, then driving for Derrick Walker’s Team Australia. This past year, the two drivers butted heads on occasion in what was one of IndyCar’s best rivalries.

“Will is the champion,” Pagenaud said. “He’s a tremendous driver. Yes we’ve had our contact on track, but you need to grow as a driver. We’ve known each other for a long time, and enjoyed working together at the time.

“Our job to make it work, for all of us. I don’t see any problem why it won’t work.”

He hasn’t talked to Power since this news broke, but Pagenaud did confirm all four drivers will be together at a Verizon event on Tuesday.

Speaking of commercial partners and/or personnel, Team Penske president Tim Cindric said no determinations have been made on either of those yet.

It remains to be seen whether Pagenaud’s longtime engineer, Ben Bretzman, will make the shift over as well.

No date has been set for a first test, although Cindric confirmed Pagenaud will be out before the end of the year.

Cindric did confirm Pagenaud will run No. 22 next season. The choice is an intriguing one because Team Penske also runs the No. 22 in NASCAR and has Shell and Pennzoil sponsorship already present; in years past, it has served as a full-time associate and occasional primary sponsor of Castroneves’ No. 3 car.

Power, Montoya and Castroneves are set to run Nos. 1, 2 and 3 next season, per Cindric, so 4 could have been an option.

Cindric explained the courting process of reaching out to Pagenaud, and how it differed from the team adding a third car for Montoya last offseason.

“The fortunate thing is we have an owner committed to winning and to opportunity,” Cindric said. “We have to have those resources in place to where it can stand on its own.

“This is different than a Montoya situation, because we didn’t have one discussion whatsoever. This one, we had the process in place beyond our existing sponsors.

“We have a very good marketing team. With the length of this offseason, we have more time to raise those budgets.”

One of the other items Pagenaud addressed were rumors he’d been approached by Nissan to drive for its LMP1 program, which will premiere in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2015.

“I’ve been always interested in sports car, have had a great career, but my goal was to go back to IndyCar in 2012,” he said. “I had a successful time and great opportunities. Yes I’ve been in talks with Nissan, good talks, but I was interested in my opportunities in IndyCar.”

Lastly, Pagenaud thanked Honda for all they’d done for his career, but said the lure of driving for Penske was key to his choice to switch to a Chevrolet squad.

“They’ve done a lot for me. It’s been a great relationship, but sometimes you have to choose. My dream has been to drive for Roger.”

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.