“Lucky break” nets Hinchcliffe an overdue first Toronto podium (VIDEO)

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TORONTO – James Hinchcliffe’s perpetually unlucky run of form at his home race, the Honda Indy Toronto, came to an end – for once – with third place in today’s Verizon IndyCar Series race in the No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda.

The top Honda driver in the field all weekend started sixth, finished third (his best prior start and finish at Toronto in six starts was both eighth) but still needed a stroke of luck to ensure the result came good.

Hinchcliffe stopped for his final time on Lap 47 and ran the final 39 laps on a stint, needing a bit of yellow (which he got from Laps 47 to 49, 58 to 62 and 82 to 83, so 10 laps) in order to be able to run the distance without a splash.

Once the final yellow came out on Lap 82, Hinchcliffe was not only good to go on fuel, but also able to go full rich and thus be able to hold off a hard charging Tony Kanaan in the process.

“As we were coming to the last restart, I saw everybody in the last section get to their feet,” he told CNBC post-race. “I was hoping not to screw it up.

“It was obviously a great day to have a good day. For once, we caught a lucky break in Toronto. I’m not going to sit here and say we had third-place pace, but as the cloud cover came out the track came to us. … It’s awesome, there’ll be a party in Hinchtown, for sure.

“There was some fun action. … It was good, fun racing. The support here is incredible. The folks here in Toronto made me feel super special when we come here and I’m happy with this result.”

Hinchcliffe elaborated on what the result meant during the post-race press conference.

“We had a good first stint. The car was good on reds, as we should have expected based on qualifying. Throwing some elbows with Bourdais at the start, Montoya, Mikhail, Josef, a couple guys there. Kind of good fun racing,” he said.

“When we stopped and switched over to blacks, we lost the balance a fair bit. We were really struggling for pace. I was just trying to hold on to the thing, to be honest. We weren’t entirely sure how it was going to play out.

“For once in my career here in Toronto we caught a lucky break. It’s not just that I haven’t had great luck here, I’ve had insanely bad luck here. Today we were on the other side of that. It’s part of IndyCar racing.”

Hinchcliffe thanked the fans and also noted how special his firesuit was this race, featuring a number of autographs from people who made a donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and thus got to sign the suit.

“Thanks to my association with Honda Canada, their partnership with Make-a-Wish Foundation, we do this every year,” he said. “We’ll put a suit on display on the Honda World tent. If you make a donation, you get to sign the suit I wear on race day. Obviously, this one is a bit special now. Been up on the podium. Smells like champagne and sweat.

“If you look at it, there’s not many open spaces left. It shows how generous the people of Toronto are. I think we raised a bunch of money for a really good cause.

“I got a little bit of extra boost, like I said, seeing the crowd stand up in Turn 11. I knew all my family and extended family and friend group were sitting on that grandstand. Like I said, that kind of gave me a little boost just to make sure we got a really good run off of turn 11.

“I knew we had an extra overtake compared to T.K. that might come into play. I was feeling good, feeling confident. We were keeping him behind us before. There was no reason to think we couldn’t do it again.”

Hinchcliffe now sits eighth in the points championship, one behind Alexander Rossi in seventh for being top Honda.

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.