Reports: IndyCar closing on Watkins Glen race

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INDYCAR appears close to filling its vacant Boston gap on the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule with a race at Watkins Glen International for Labor Day weekend, per multiple reports.

Mid-last-week, Autosport contacted Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles – head of INDYCAR’s parent company – who said that Watkins Glen and Gateway were leading candidates to replace the canceled Boston round, although no race was yet confirmed. Miles did tell Autosport’s Bruce Martin that a decision would likely be due next week.

And in a matter of hours this evening, the Watkins Glen appearing closer if not quite at the finish line stories are emerging, with Motorsport.com, RACER.com and USA Today Sports (via Indianapolis Star) all offering some variation of the “it’s close and it isn’t yet announced but it’s moving to that point” report.

Miles’ optimism is there and it appears any deal would need to see some form of communication this week between Watkins Glen track president Michael Printup and INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Jay Frye. There’s also the matter of a Ferrari event on the Labor Day weekend, which the track has held for years, and how that fits into the equation.

IndyCar last had a six-year run at the track from 2005 to 2010. Our NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell tossed a poll out last week asking where you’d want to go, and Watkins Glen was the favorite among the fans.

Meanwhile, there’s been a fair bit of testing at the newly repaved track this week. Per the track, Chip Ganassi Racing (with its two Ford GTs), Stevenson Motorsports (Audi R8 LMS), and BMW Team RLL (BMW M6 GTLM) have all been testing there today in advance of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round the first weekend of June.

Richard Westbrook, who co-drove the No. 67 Ganassi Ford to victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with Ryan Briscoe last week, as well as Andrew Davis, co-driver of the No. 6 Stevenson Audi with Robin Liddell, posted pics of the newly resurface tracks on Twitter.

As ever with INDYCAR, nothing is a done deal until the ink on the contract is signed, the check clears and the green flag drops, but there’s enough positive momentum emanating from these series of reports to where the likelihood of it happening is far higher than it was last week.

We ran a post last week suggesting possible Boston replacement options, and Simon Pagenaud also told NBC Sports during a conference call last week that he’d love to have Watkins Glen on the calendar.

“I hope we can replace the race. For sure, I’m thinking of Watkins Glen,” Pagenaud said. “I’ve never been there, but it looks like a beautiful track. It’s been repaved, as well, recently. That would be a good market and really cool track to go to.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

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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.