Coyne’s pair advances to Q2 for first time in two years at Toronto

Photo: IndyCar

TORONTO – When you’re an admitted stat nerd and have once been called “a warehouse of useless information” by a PR colleague – I think it’s a compliment, or at least I’m telling myself it is – you live for moments like what Dale Coyne Racing’s pair of drivers delivered Saturday in qualifying for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (2:30 p.m. ET, CNBC).

After Conor Daly and Luca Filippi were third and fifth in their group (Q1, Group 1), and thus both of them had advanced into Q2, I figured it’d had been a while since both Coyne Hondas had done so.

Thanks to my trusty Excel spreadsheet database, my suspicions were proven correct – the last time this happened was in the pre-aero kit era in the Verizon IndyCar Series when the late, great Justin Wilson and then-teammate Carlos Huertas, better known as “Grumpy Cat,” qualified eighth and 10th at Mid-Ohio… in 2014.

In fact, last year the Coyne team only made it out of Q1 once all season – when Tristan Vautier qualified 11th at Detroit, race one.

This year it’s become a somewhat more regular occurrence with Filippi starting 12th twice, then Daly adding the team’s to-date best qualifying run of ninth at Road America.

Daly in Q2 then ended seventh in the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda, thus proving the team had made significant strides since Friday’s practice, while Filippi was 11th in the No. 19 IMPCO ComfortPro Honda. The Italian was not happy with himself for his performance and Daly, the American who’s punched above his weight more often than not this year, was perhaps happy to be in a position where he’d only just come up short of his first Firestone Fast Six appearance.

“It’s great to start seventh tomorrow! It’s our best starting position of the year. It feels great to be fighting for that top six and fighting right at the front of the Honda pack,” Daly said.

“It’s a little painful, and it a bit of shame, to be knocked out of the Firestone Fast Six by Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) but because it’s him it’s fine, he’s the hometown hero. I’m just happy with the progress that we’ve made. We keep improving from race to race and that’s what we have to keep doing. I can’t wait for tomorrow.”

Filippi added, “It’s a good team result but I’m not happy for myself because I could have done much better and possibly been more or less where Conor (Daly) is but we caught a train of traffic that came out in front of me and with these tires you can’t afford too many laps on those. That said, the potential is good so we can do well and better in the race. We just have to watch out for the start tomorrow and from there we can work our way up and have a strong race.”

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.