Kanaan leads opening IndyCar practice at Iowa

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Tony Kanaan made an impressive start to the Iowa Corn 300 weekend at Iowa Speedway by topping the opening Verizon IndyCar Series practice on Saturday morning.

Kanaan arrived in Iowa hoping to go one better than his second place finish at Road America two weeks ago, where he was edged out by Will Power late on.

Opening practice at Iowa Speedway saw a handful of lap times dip below the official track record of 17.2283s, set by Helio Castroneves in 2014.

Kanaan turned in a lap of 17.2197s early in the 75-minute session, averaging a speed of 186.902 mph to finish 0.02 seconds clear of Castroneves at the top of the timesheets, with Josef Newgarden finishing just behind in third for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Although Kanaan cannot claim a new lap record as his time was set in practice, it does suggest that Castroneves’ benchmark will be beaten this weekend.

Scott Dixon rose to fourth place for Chip Ganassi Racing late in the session, edging out series leader Simon Pagenaud in P5. Charlie Kimball finished the session sixth-fastest, followed by KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais and the returning Ed Carpenter. Ryan Hunter-Reay and Juan Pablo Montoya rounded out the top 10 positions.

Andretti Autosport arrived at Iowa hoping to continue its six-year winning streak, but suffered a tough start to the weekend when both Marco Andretti and Hunter-Reay suffered spins early in practice.

Andretti lost control at Turn 4 but was able to keep his car out of the wall and return to the pits unscathed. However, Hunter-Reay was less fortunate, bumping the wall with the rear of his car.

“I had traffic in front of me and was trying to complete the final lap of my qualy sim,” Hunter-Reay told NBC Sports.

“Combined with the track and the patches, it being a green track, not a lot of Firestone rubber down, the rear snapped quite a bit earlier than Marco’s did.

“It’s worse down low. Problem is the rear gets over the bumps and it turns around. We just need to get more rubber down. Right now there is nothing down so there’s nothing we can tell at the moment.”

A third yellow was called for debris with 17 minutes remaining in the session, but the track quickly returned to green to allow some late flying laps to be completed.

Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi topped the lap charts by some distance, putting in 125 laps – 35 more than any other driver – in a bid to mileage out his engine. He ultimately finished the session 11th-fastest.

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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.