Castroneves completes Friday practice sweep at Sonoma

Photo: IndyCar
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SONOMA, Calif. – Helio Castroneves topped his second straight 75-minute practice session in the No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, with an even faster time of 1:16.6678 compared to this morning.

The second session for Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (6:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) ran in hotter conditions than this morning. Compared to temperatures of 62 degrees ambient and 87 on track, per Firestone, it was 79 and 113 in the second session.

Title rivals Will Power and Simon Pagenaud made it a Team Penske 1-2-3 in the session, both drivers excelling in the warmer afternoon session compared to this morning. They had saved tires in the morning and figured it would be closer to qualifying now, and they were better as expected, both also in the 1:16 bracket.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi made it two Andretti Autosport Hondas completing the top five, although Rossi stopped on course with an apparent misfire to end the session a couple minutes early.

Rossi’s course stoppage wasn’t much, while by contrast, fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Conor Daly had a massive smoke show with about 20 minutes left in the session.

The young American lost power in his No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda exiting the Carousel and stopped before Turn 7 with a huge plume of smoke out the back of his car.

Times are below from the session.

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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.