Andretti Indy Lights trio upbeat after maiden IndyCar tests


Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights trio of Dean Stoneman, Shelby Blackstock and Dalton Kellett were left content following their maiden IndyCar tests at Watkins Glen on Thursday.

Ahead of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to Watkins Glen on Labor Day weekend for the penultimate round of the 2016 season, eight teams put in the laps in mixed conditions on Thursday.

Indy Lights title contender Stoneman split running with regular Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay in the no. 28 DHL Honda, and used 2016 rookie Alexander Rossi’s data as a guide for finding more lap time.

“Yesterday was a new learning curve for me and I had been really looking forward to it,” Stoneman said, having recorded a best lap of 1:27.14.

“We started by getting a feeling for the car with a quick out-lap and an in-lap, so the engineers look over that data. I took about five laps for me to get a feeling for the car.

“It was really enjoyable to drive the car and over the runs we were able to get quicker and quicker, making improvements more and more. I was looking at Alexander’s data compared to mine and just seeing where I could improve.

“There are some high-speed corners that just rely on confidence from me – knowing what the car is going to do and the way it behaves.

“The car is quite physical to drive, but it is a great car. I think I did a great job this morning, bear in mind that I have never driven an Indy car before.”

Blackstock’s maiden IndyCar test was the culmination of a five-year road with Andretti, having driven for the American marque in all three Mazda Road to Indy series. The 26-year-old shared the no. 26 Honda with Carlos Munoz, posting a fastest time of 1:28.76.

“The day went pretty well yesterday and it was great to be back at Watkins Glen,” Blackstock said.

“The day started out good, we progressed really well. Once we put on the sticker tires, I was able to feel the real weight of the steering. Luckily, when Carlos jumped into the car right after me, he said it was a bit excessive too.

“That was the only fall back I had. We were going to try the steering a bit lighter for the afternoon session, but unfortunately the rain started and we didn’t have the opportunity to go back out.

“Overall, I am really happy with the experience – I had a blast in the car and seeing how the Andretti IndyCar team is ran.”

Kellett put in 50 laps behind the wheel of Marco Andretti’s no. 27 United Fiber and Data/Snapple Honda, recording a fastest lap of 1:29.96.

“It felt great to be at Watkins Glen and get behind the wheel of an Indy car. The track was a lot of fun – there are a lot of high-speed corners,” Kellett said, who noted the step up from the Indy Lights cars.

“Getting used to the physicality of the car and track has definitely been an adjustment. The steering wheel was not as heavy as I thought it was going to be but there’s definitely a lot of force on the neck.

“We were focusing on building up to getting used to the car during the morning session yesterday since these cars are a lot different than the Indy Lights cars.

“There’s lot of power – the response from the Honda engine is very good – so it was definitely an adjustment to what I am used to with the IL-15.

“The car is a great package. It’s a lot of fun to drive, just the way the car handles the curves and the way you can really tackle the entries – and I think that was one of the things that I had been working on was just getting used to the downforce and using the grip on entry.

“It was great working with Marco and his team. They were very helpful to getting me up to speed with the car.”

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.