Kyle Larson says he understands Ryan Newman’s last-lap move at Phoenix

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Turns out rookie Kyle Larson did have an impact on the Chase for the Sprint Cup after all – although probably not in the way he intended.

Larson, who did not qualify for the Chase, was running 11th on the final lap of yesterday’s Eliminator Round finale at Phoenix ahead of Ryan Newman, who needed to get ahead of Larson in order to earn the last spot in the Championship Race over Jeff Gordon.

As you’d expect, Newman pushed hard and got inside of Larson in Turn 3 before making contact that sent Larson into the Turn 4 wall. That gave Newman the final Championship position by one point over Gordon, and it has set off a round of criticism against the Rocket Man – much of it coming from Gordon fans frustrated over their driver not making the cut.

Newman admitted in post-race that he wasn’t proud of the move but said that Larson would do the same to him if he were in his position. Now, we have reaction from Larson, who apparently was somewhat irked by Newman’s actions but ended up echoing his comments.

“Coming to the finish, there were a lot of cars racing really hard,’’ Larson said in a statement provided to Motor Racing Network’s Dustin Long. “I knew [Newman] was right around me and knew he needed to gain some spots to keep from getting eliminated from the Chase.

“It’s a little upsetting he pushed me up to the wall, but I completely understand the situation he was in and can’t fault him for being aggressive there. I think a lot of drivers out here would have done something similar if they were in that position.”

It’s a diplomatic response from Larson, and it’s probably the truth as well. Newman fell out of position to advance to the Championship in the last handful of laps, but saw a chance to save his season and took it – just as Brad Keselowski did two weeks ago at Texas when he was going for a victory that would have put him into the Championship.

Larson may not be in the Chase, but he knows that just about anything goes in this format and that you have to expect such. He’s acknowledged that with the statement, and in doing so, he might have gained some brownie points with Newman and his fellow veterans in the garage.

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.