After Indy 500 win, Alexander Rossi’s final 2016 goal: finish rookie season in top 10

Getty Images

There’s an old saying in motorsports “that one race does not a season make.”

Well, except for maybe Alexander Rossi.

The rookie IndyCar driver from Auburn, Calif., unquestionably had the biggest finish of any driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2016 when he was the unlikely winner of the milestone 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Rossi was virtually everyone’s darling for the week following taking the checkered flag in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

But once Indy was in his rearview mirror and he proceeded to the two races at Belle Isle the following week, Rossi went from sudden star back to being just another rookie.

And that’s how his season will ultimately finish — or will it?

Rossi comes into Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma – at his home racetrack of Sonoma Raceway – ranked 11th in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings. A strong finish in the season finale could potentially see him finish his first IndyCar season with a top-10 showing.

Admittedly, he’s had some good finishes other than Indy, but no podium showings: sixth at Iowa, eighth at Watkins Glen and pair of 10th place finishes (Indianapolis Grand Prix and Belle Isle 1).

But then there’s the other side of the coin: he’s also had 10 finishes in the first 15 races between 11th and a season-worst 20th (twice).

But his Watkins Glen finish — coupled with his reputation as a strong road course racer — leaves Rossi optimistic that he can wrap up the season on a high note.

“There is so much that I am looking forward to this weekend, that it’s hard to choose just one thing,” Rossi said. “Whether it’s my home race in California, double-points season finale or the fact that 100-plus friends and family are coming out to watch – some for the first time.

“I want to take all of this energy and use it as even more fuel to end the season on a high note. I’m proud of how the No. 98 team has steadily improved throughout the year and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish this weekend.”

It may not equal what he accomplished at Indianapolis, but it’ll be a great way to wrap up a year, nonetheless.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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.