PWC: Next generation O’Connell debuts, podiums in Utah

Photo: PWC

A Touring Car B-Spec race weekend at Utah Motorsports Campus might go down as the beginning of some second-generation awesomeness in the O’Connell family.

Indeed Canaan O’Connell, Johnny O’Connell’s son, made his professional debut this past weekend in the Pirelli World Challenge’s TCB class in a Chevrolet Sonic. He started third and finished second in the first race of the weekend, then started fourth and ended fifth in the second race.

A proud papa’s pair of Instagram posts are below:

Here was the preview for Canaan O’Connell going into the weekend, via PWC:

It’s not an easy task to follow in your dad’s footsteps in racing.  Especially if your father is a champion.

Just ask Canaan O’Connell, the 22-year-old son of four-time Pirelli World Challenge GT champion Johnny O’Connell.

The younger O’Connell is doing just that this weekend (August 12-14) at Utah Motorsports Campus as he makes his pro racing debut in the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Utah Motorsports Campus presented by Energy Solutions.

O’Connell will compete in the No. 24 TechSport Racing Chevy Sonic in the TCB division while his father, Johnny, wheels his popular red No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R. in the highly-competitive GT class. The older O’Connell dominated last year’s PWC GT action with a double-victory which led to his fourth consecutive series title.

“I wanted to go pro racing for a while now but things just didn’t come together,” said Canaan O’Connell, who is a driving instructor at the Bob Bondurant School in Arizona when he isn’t racing. “But my dad told me I had to put the deal together on my own. He said he would teach the racing techniques as I came up but that he wasn’t going to pay to put me in a car.”

Just as personable as his outgoing father, Canaan knew the battle that was ahead of him to get in the driver’s seat.

“I was a go-kart junkie back home in Georgia and I just wanted to learn as much as possible,” he admits. “I started out as a ‘gopher’ at Bondurant’s and have now worked into the instructor role. I’m more of a coach and right-seat passenger there. But sometimes, the guys let me run early in the day or after work. That way I can get some seat time behind the wheel.”

O’Connell has been racing in 2016, competing in a Mazda Miata in the NASA series.  But he is looking forward to jumping to the Pirelli World Challenge this weekend in Utah.

“I’m so anxious to get to the track for my first PWC event,” said Canaan. “It will be so fun to race on the track and on the same weekend as my dad. I look forward to the track walk with him before the races. I’m sure he will give me some tips.”

Canaan O’Connell is thankful for the assistance of his father and some other friends and associates to give this opportunity.

“Making my pro racing debut is something I’ve thought about for as long as I can remember, said O’Connell. “To finally achieve that dream is an amazing feeling. It’s a feeling I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. Obviously I’m very grateful to TechSport Racing and the team owners Deborah Popolizio and Kevin Anderson for putting the faith in me.

“It’s even more special because I get to do it in a GM product. Not only because of my father’s success within the company, but because of the incredible people that are at GM. Jim Campbell, Mark Kent and of course Gary and Robin Pratt have all been huge influences on my life.”

But he knows he has to show his talent in the car too.

“Hey, I know the O’Connell name brings some attention in racing,” he said. “But in the end, I know I have to show that I can do it behind the wheel. Your name only takes you so far. It’s true for any second or third generation driver.”

O’Connell owes this weekend’s debut to many people who have assisted him as he prepares for professional competition.

“A big thanks goes to Eric Powell and TechSport Racing, for letting me be a part of the team for the weekend,” he said. “Also a huge thanks to the Bondurant Racing School, Jem FXJohnny O’ConnellDan Fastuca, Chris Cook, Alan Rudolph and many others. They have been instrumental in getting to this point in my career. I’m off to Utah for my first Pro Race!”

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.