MRTI: Pro Mazda, USF2000 Lucas Oil Raceway races set to shift dates

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The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind., just outside Indianapolis, are traditionally a great day-before-the-Indianapolis 500 affair.

The event used to be known as the “Night Before the 500.”

In 2016, they’ll be the day-before-the-day-before, but back to the night, which they had been in 2014, but got moved up to the day in 2015 because Saturday night’s events ran too late.

The series’ official Twitter accounts indicated a shift from May 28, the Saturday, to May 27 – so Friday night for the two races at the artist-formerly-known-as-IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park).

More times and event details will follow at a later date.

This means now all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy will be running on the same day, Friday, May 27.

This is usually a good thing and works fine at road and street course races, but it becomes more complicated when the three MRTI series are running at separate tracks, and at separate points in the day.

The Freedom 100 – the marquee event on the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires schedule – runs in-between Carb Day practice and the Tag Heuer Pit Stop Competition on the Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Then what follows is the Carb Day concert, often sponsored by Coors Light and which this year will feature Journey.

So if you want to take in your requisite “Don’t Stop Believin'” time, chances are you aren’t gonna be headed to Lucas Oil – most likely.

It could also put a bit of a strain on any of those staff, crew, media or fans who might have a role to play in more than one Mazda Road to Indy series.

Add in other events – Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star‘s annual “Burger Bash” generally occurs on the Friday night at 96th Street Steakburgers – and myriad other sponsor/partner parties or events, and suddenly you wonder if the Lucas Oil crowd might inadvertently be affected.

It was a respectable crowd last year during the day, and I hope the crowd – or the key participants – aren’t too impacted by this date change.

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.