NHRA: Despite hard wreck, Courtney Force won’t miss this weekend’s race at Brainerd

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Courtney Force will return to action for this weekend’s Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Brainerd, Minnesota.

John Force Racing announced Force will race, nearly two weeks after a hard wreck at Seattle left her battered and bruised, but with no major injuries.

“I am excited to get back in the seat,” Force said in a media release. “After how I last left the track I am definitely ready to get back in the car and go down the race track.”

Force suffered bumps and bruises in one of the hardest wrecks of her career after her car left the starting line and then veered left and into a concrete protective wall.

“I have been going through physical therapy every day,” Force said. “I have been working with Dr. (Robert) Ortmeyer, who is the same doctor that worked with my dad (16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force) after his crash (in 2007).

“I am seeing huge progress every day with my knee. I have gone from being on crutches the first couple of days to getting comfortable walking on it to being able to bend it all the way now. We have gone through a crash course of rehab. I definitely feel good enough to be back in the race car. That’s my throttle leg so I will be ready to pound on the throttle for sure.”

Force is comfortably locked into the upcoming six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoff and could theoretically have missed Brainerd and the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis two more weeks from now.

But she didn’t want to miss any action.

“I didn’t want to lose out on racing Brainerd because this is the time to get everything in order for Indy and the Countdown,” Force said. “You never want to crash but thankfully I have great guys at the shop in Indy that were ready to go to work on it.

“Since my team had to do so much extra work I sent them a deal called a “Man-crate” full of beef jerky and different kinds of nuts to say I was sorry for crashing the car.

“Going into Brainerd is huge because you mentally need to get prepared to go into the U.S. Nationals. I feel like I have a little bit of time to get back into my rhythm and focused on racing. From here on out the main focus is the championship. We are using Brainerd and Indy to really get ready for the Countdown. I want to mentally and physically be ready to go for it.”

Force just barely missed last year’s Countdown. But not this year.

“This is a huge turnaround from where we were last year,” Force said. “I think this is the best shot at the championship we have ever had. We are hopefully going into the Countdown in the No. 2 spot.

“We are trying to hold onto that position right now with two races left. Being in that spot would give us a lead going into the last six races of the rest of the Top Ten for the championship.

“This is the best time for me to really be on my game with reaction times. I have really been trying hard to be the most consistent that I have ever been before. If we can get everything right we definitely would have the full package. I think we have a great shot of going after the championship this year. I am not going to let that slip away.”

As for fellow driver and close friend Alexis DeJoria, who suffered a fractured left pelvis in a crash at Sonoma, California, one week before Force’s crash (and forced DeJoria to miss the Seattle race), her status for this week will be announced Thursday morning.

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Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

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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.