Allmendinger’s car owner explains why team will skip Sprint Unlimited

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AJ Allmendinger will not compete in next weekend’s Sprint Unlimited because his team was unable to find sponsorship for the exhibition event.

JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter told MotorsportsTalk that NASCAR’s late decision to include all 16 Chase drivers in the Sprint Unlimited left his organization with little time to find a sponsor.

NASCAR announced Dec. 15 it was expanding the field for the Feb. 14 non-points race.

“It was nowhere on our radar until they changed the rules on it,’’ Geschickter said Monday of competing in the Sprint Unlimited. “If we had won a pole during the season and knew we were in it, I’m sure we would have been well prepared for it. We appreciate being grandfathered in, but, obviously, have to manage our resources to deliver the best year-end points finish we can for our sponsors.’’

Allmendinger finished 13th in the points for the team last year, earning a Chase bid with his win at Watkins Glen.

Geschickter said he’s not worried about missing additional track time at Daytona International Speedway by skipping the race. JTG Daugherty enters its second year as part of an alliance with Richard Childress Racing and will be able to get information and notes from other RCR alliance cars in that race.

Geschickter says the team has three superspeedway cars ready for the season.

“Obviously, if you go tear one up before the season starts, that’s a big hit to a budget,’’ Geschickter said.

As for sponsorship this season, Geschickter says the team has only three races to sell. Those races are in the second half of the year.

Also, a Richard Childress Racing spokesperson confirmed that Brian Scott will not compete in the 75-lap Sprint Unlimited. Scott was eligible by winning the pole at Talladega last spring.

Brian Vickers also was eligible but will not compete in the exhibition race. He will miss the first two races of the season as he completes his recovery from offseason corrective heart surgery.

NASCAR stated in December that the Sprint Unlimited would have a minimum 25 cars. The event is open to all Chase drivers from last season, pole winners from last year, former Sprint Unlimited winners, and former Daytona 500 pole winners who competed full time in 2014. If any of the 25 spots remain, then those highest in the points not yet eligible would qualify.

NASCAR confirmed that the top four drivers not automatically in the Sprint Unlimited but who would be eligible if others fell out: Clint Bowyer (19th in points last year), Paul Menard (21st), Casey Mears (26th) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (27th).

A spokesperson for Michael Waltrip Racing confirmed that Bowyer would compete in the event. A spokesperson for RCR confirmed that Menard would race in the Sprint Unlimited.

 

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.