Indy 500 qualifying: year-on-year differences, other notes

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The grid is set for this year’s 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 and as ever, there’s a series of differences but some similarities in comparing how the grid looked 12 months ago compared to how it will look six days from now.

The full grid shot took place earlier today. See a group photo from Andretti Autosport posted below:

Here’s some notes, stats, comparisons and other nuggets:

  • This is due to the pre-qualifying aerodynamic changes imposed by INDYCAR, but the field average speed is sizably down this year. Last year it was a record 229.382; this year it is 224.290, a full five mph down.
  • Five drivers who started in the top nine last year will start in the top nine again this year. They are Will Power (2015-second, 2014-third), Simon Pagenaud (third, fifth), Helio Castroneves (fifth, fourth), Marco Andretti (eighth, sixth) and Josef Newgarden (ninth, eighth).
  • None of those five will mirror their positions as they did last year, although a No. 21 car will start ninth for the second year in a row – Newgarden’s 2015 CFH Racing teammate JR Hildebrand started ninth last year. Hildebrand will roll off 10th this year in the No. 6 Chevrolet.
  • Chip Ganassi Racing placed two cars in the top nine this year after no cars qualified better than 11th last year.
  • Andretti Autosport drivers will roll off sixth, eighth, 11th, 16th and 19th this year. Last year, they were second, sixth, seventh, 12th and 19th. Pretty similar year-on-year.
  • Row 6 this year mirrors Row 7 last year. Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal and Carlos Huertas qualified in the exact same order, inside-middle-outside, as they did last year.
  • Row 11 features the drivers with the fewest combined number of Indianapolis 500 starts in five. Stefano Coletti will make his debut while Bryan Clauson and James Davison will make their second starts, respectively.
  • While there are only two rookies (Gabby Chaves and Stefano Coletti) there are six drivers making their second starts. Those are Carlos Huertas, Sage Karam, Conor Daly, Jack Hawksworth, Bryan Clauson and James Davison. So that’s roughly a quarter of the field making just their first or second starts.

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.