Hulkenberg handed grid penalty for unsafe release in China

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Nico Hulkenberg will drop three places on the grid for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix after Force India was penalized for releasing his car in an unsafe manner during qualifying.

Hulkenberg qualified 10th at the Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday, but took no part in Q3 after the front-left wheel on his car came loose at the end of Q2.

The wheel bounced along the side of the track before coming to rest, forcing race control to throw a red flag and bring the session to an early end.

The stewards looked dimly on the incident, handing Hulkenberg a three place grid drop.

“Car 27 was released in an unsafe condition as the wheel and tire fell off at turn 10,” a short statement from the stewards confirmed.

After qualifying 10th, Hulkenberg will start Sunday’s race from 13th on the grid.

“To be honest I don’t know what happened,” Hulkenberg said. “We all saw that the wheel came off, but why and how, I don’t know.

“It was attached properly when we left the garage because everything felt normal. It didn’t feel loose and there was no indication from the steering. When it came off, it happened suddenly, but I was at low speed and could park the car quickly and safely.

“It’s disappointing because we’ve been competitive here this weekend and I would have liked to be out there during Q3. The race tomorrow is going to be interesting and hopefully things will work out a bit better than today.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30am ET on Sunday.

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.