Season finish: 16th
2014 Season Stats: 1 Win, 2 Top-5s, 7 Top-10s, 0 Poles.
What went right: After Almirola made his way to the front in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona in July, steady rains forced NASCAR to call the race after 112 of 160 scheduled laps. The victory was not only Almirola’s first in Sprint Cup competition, but the first for the legendary No. 43 machine since 1999. It also came 30 years after the No. 43’s iconic driver, seven-time Cup champ Richard Petty, earned his 200th and final career win at the “World Center of Racing.” All in all, not a bad way to make your first Chase.
What went wrong: Before and after Daytona, noticeably strong results were few for Almirola and Richard Petty Motorsports. More often than not in the regular season, they were running mid-pack – and to be honest, that’s where you’d expect them to be. But the 43 camp would look to step up in the Chase, and in the opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Almirola charged into the Top 5 only to lose the motor late in the race. Instead of a great finish that would boost his hopes of advancing out of the Challenger Round, he got a 41st-place result that snuffed those hopes out.
2015 Prospectus: Much like fellow 2014 Chase “wild card” A.J. Allmendinger and his JTG Daugherty team, Almirola and RPM must become regulars in at least the Top 10-15 each week. To do that, they’re gonna have to make up a good amount of ground in performance. They’ll look to reach said goal during what will be a busy year for the team – RPM is setting up shop at a new/old location in Mooresville, N.C., and former Indy 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. is making his full-time Cup return as Almirola’s teammate.
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.