No lucky 7 in a row for Andretti Autosport in Iowa

Photo: IndyCar

NEWTON, Iowa – Andretti Autosport’s Iowa Speedway hot streak came to an end this weekend, with “six” remaining the team’s magic number.

After six wins in a row on the 0.894-mile bullring, the team could only finish in that number position on Sunday as a best result, with rookie Alexander Rossi in sixth for his second best finish of the season only behind his win at the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Rossi, in the No. 98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda, was the best of Andretti’s four cars throughout the weekend from start to finish – he ended sixth after starting 17th.

“Starting 17th made our life hard. I think we were unlucky in terms of the yellows when they came out because our strength today was in the second half of our tire life,” Rossi explained, post-race. “We had really, really good tire life and everyone else was struggling. We were able to stay out but we were never able to take advantage of that. None-the-less a good result from where we started and we’re looking forward to Toronto.”

Meanwhile teammates Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay had frustrating experiences – the team never seemed to find the right setup on the slightly altered Iowa track, owing to more severe bumps in Turns 3 and 4. Andretti and Hunter-Reay both spun in first practice although Andretti completed an incredible save to not hit anything.

Munoz started 15th and finished 12th; Andretti was 14th after starting 19th while Hunter-Reay had arguably his most diabolical weekend since Detroit 2014, when he crashed on two occasions and also had an electrical failure.

After starting 20th, “RHR” was first out on Sunday with a Honda engine letting go and his dreams of a third win in a row at Iowa literally went up in flames.

“That was the most out-of-shape I think we’ve ever been,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt after the failure.

Munoz and Andretti were blunt and succinct, not mincing words about the struggles being real.

“Man, that was the longest race of my career in IndyCar,” Munoz said. “We struggled a lot for grip – I didn’t have any confidence in the car. We were just chasing the car the whole race, changing and never could get the balance in the car. We have to now think about Toronto. This was a tough race for the whole team.”

Andretti added, “Another disappointing result. I had to come from the back and it was hard to pass. We gave it all we had. We took a risk on strategy, which of course didn’t pay off – so here we are with a 14th-place finish.”

Following this result, Rossi now sits best of the Hondas in points – seventh – while Munoz is eighth, Hunter-Reay 13th and Andretti 16th in the championship standings.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

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.