IndyCar: Gabby Chaves’ hopes are high for solid rookie season

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The hard work has paid off for Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves with a ride in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

But more hard work awaits for the Colombian as he seeks to fully establish himself in North America’s top open-wheel league with Bryan Herta Autosport.

He’s the latest young lion to step up from Lights in recent years, joining the likes of Jack Hawksworth (A.J. Foyt Racing), Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport), Josef Newgarden (CFH Racing), and Sage Karam (Chip Ganassi Racing).

So what can help him stand out? Carrying over the consistency from his 2014 Lights title run would be a start. He claimed four victories and closed the year with eight consecutive podium finishes. Furthermore, it was his five second-place runs that enabled him to be crowned champion over Jack Harvey on a second tie-breaker (both Chaves and Harvey had four wins apiece, but Chaves’ five runner-ups beat Harvey’s one).

Still, Chaves recognizes that you need the total package to succeed in the ultra-competitive IndyCar.

“You got to look at everything,” Chaves said recently during IndyCar Media Day activities. “You have to look at raw speed. You have to look at consistency. You have to look at your technical feedback. There’s a lot of things that make a driver as a whole.  You can’t just look at one thing.

“[But] definitely, consistency is up there [in importance].  It just really separates the great from the greatest, the good from the best. When a driver has all these attributes, these qualities, it makes them a better driver overall.”

Last year in Lights, Chaves was a constant force in the championship, at first battling Zach Veach for supremacy (the two drivers traded wins in the first four races) and then surviving a late-season push from Harvey. This year, he isn’t expected to be a title threat as an IndyCar rookie.

But although expectations are a bit lower at this point, Chaves obviously still wants to show that he belongs.

“No one is expecting you to go out there and win three races in a row,” he said. “But definitely I think, as racing drivers … The mentality is always to go out there and drive as hard as you can. If you get to the race weekend and you don’t believe within yourself that you can win this race, that moment, your professional career is over.

“That’s my mentality. I have to go out every weekend and I have to think I have a chance, a shot at winning this one.  Once we get going, we’ll see where we’re at. We’ll just keep working away. Hopefully, at some point or another, we’ll be able to show our potential.”

It would appear Chaves will have his chances to do just that. His new boss, Herta, has said that he’d like to hang on to him for a few years and have both team and driver grow together.

A big part of that will depend on how Chaves jells with his No. 98 team, which will be led by veteran engineer John Dick. Chaves knows that good chemistry can go a long way, particularly for a single-car team like his.

“I think that’s going to be the most important factor in my success for 2015 is how well can I connect with my engineers, how well can I connect with my mechanics, with everyone around me,” he said. “If I have a high level of chemistry with them, if we have a good atmosphere in the team, if there’s good energy flowing through our tent.

“I’m not saying we’re going to go out and win the first race, by any means. We want to go out there and race as hard as we can, compete with the fastest cars. I believe we can do it. I believe with the right work ethic, you can make it happen, even in a one-car team, being a rookie.”

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.