Pro Motocross: Roczen, Martin begin title defenses today at Hangtown

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With a long and grueling supercross season in the books, it’s time for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship to take center stage today. Coverage of all four motos will air from 5-7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra, and NBCSN will also televise the second motos live at 7 p.m. ET.

Today’s race at Hangtown will be the first of 12 rounds throughout the summer that will decide champions in two separate classes, but both of last year’s title winners will be faced with tough challenges along the way.

For Ken Roczen, the path to defending last year’s 450 Class title is already getting off to a rough start. The RCH Suzuki rider is currently battling injury – he hurt his ankle during the supercross season and is reportedly dealing with a back issue now as well – and if his practice times this morning are any indication, he does not seem to be 100% today.

As of now, Roczen is still expected to line up for today’s races, but should he struggle, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey and GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac would stand to be benefit. Dungey already has two 450MX championships under his belt, and Tomac was the fastest qualifier this morning – more than three seconds better than the rest of the field. Both riders are expected to be title contenders this year, so Roczen can ill-afford a slow start to the season.

In the 250 Class, Jeremy Martin will embark on a title defense of his own after last year’s breakout campaign. His toughest competition though may come from his own Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha teammate, Cooper Webb, who recently dominated the 250 west region during the supercross season.

Martin and Webb both pit under the same rig, so all Webb has to do is look a few feet to his side to see Martin’s bike featuring the red #1 plate of a champion, something which gives Webb a constant reminder of his goal for the year – to earn a title of his own.

“It gives me motivation for sure,” Webb said. “Especially for me after winning the supercross championship and getting third in the series last year. To get beaten by Jeremy, I get a little motivated. It’s extra motivation to steal that plate off of the #1 and put it on the 17.”

Live coverage of the season-opening round begins at 5 p.m. ET with first motos in both classes. The 250 Class will take the track first, followed by the 450 Class. Second motos in both classes will then air live at 7 p.m. ET. All races are streaming live on ProMotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra, and NBCSN will also carry live coverage of the second motos at 7 p.m. ET.

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.