Kevin Harvick quickest in final Sprint Cup practice at Martinsville

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After qualifying 33rd for Sunday’s Eliminator Round opener at Martinsville Speedway, Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team need to have a strong race pace from the drop of the green flag.

In that regard, it looks like they’ve found something.

After going fifth-fastest in this morning’s second Sprint Cup practice, Harvick topped final Cup practice this lunch hour with a lap of 19.457 seconds around the Virginia half-mile.

Harvick was among three Chasers in the Top 5 and four in the Top 10 during “Happy Hour.” Last week’s winner Brad Keselowski was third-fastest (19.485 seconds) and eight-time Martinsville victor Jeff Gordon was fifth-fastest (19.495 seconds).

Gordon, who will start 13th for the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, also had the best 10 consecutive lap average in the 50-minute session. His second to 11th laps had an average speed of 96.550 mph, eclipsing the same averages from Johnson, Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, and Kenseth.

Overall runner-up on the time sheets was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (19.473 seconds), while Kyle Busch slotted in fourth (19.490 seconds).

As for Positions 6-10: Practice 1 leader Jimmie Johnson was sixth, followed by Sunday’s pole sitter Jamie McMurray in seventh, Justin Allgaier in eighth, Chaser Joey Logano in ninth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 10th. Logano easily logged the most laps in “Happy Hour” with 99 circuits.

Among the rest of the Chasers, Matt Kenseth was 14th, Ryan Newman 17th, Denny Hamlin 21st, and Carl Edwards 33rd.

With that, the Cup teams now go into fine-tuning for tomorrow’s race, which begins shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT MARTINSVILLE – Final 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.