Pagenaud leads Power at halfway mark at Barber

Photo: IndyCar

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Simon Pagenaud remains in front of Will Power through the opening 45 laps of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the fourth round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season from Barber Motorsports Park (LIVE on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

The field is through two rounds of pit stops with varying tire strategies, alternating between Firestone’s primary blacks and softer red alternate tires, but Pagenaud has led all but two of the first 45 laps – Graham Rahal led two during the first pit sequence.

In the third stint of the race, Pagenaud led Power by 1.3663 seconds with Pagenaud on blacks and Power on reds.

Rahal got around Josef Newgarden for third prior to the second stop and is poised for his first podium finish of the year. Newgarden, the defending Barber winner, runs fourth ahead of James Hinchcliffe.

Hinchcliffe saw a battle with Charlie Kimball end early when Kimball was ordered to give up a position to Hinchcliffe.

The big mover thus far is Juan Pablo Montoya, who runs sixth after starting 21st. He made up 14 spots in the first stint.

The initial start was waved off following an accordion effect collision between Carlos Munoz, Mikhail Aleshin and Jack Hawksworth near the back of the field, and a second start waved off because the field was out of order. But on Lap 3 the field got going and has been under green flag conditions since.

Andretti Autosport has moved steadily through the field with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi each getting into the top 10 at one stage; Hunter-Reay made a good move of Rossi to the outside of Turn 5 for 10th before the second round of stops.

Sebastien Bourdais meanwhile hit Scott Dixon and had to serve a drive-through for the contact, and needed a new front wing. Still, Bourdais has been one of the fastest cars on the track since, although he’s mired in 19th.

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.