Blackstock set for third Indy Lights season with switch to Belardi

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Shelby Blackstock will continue into a third Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, with the 26-year-old American shifting from a five-year run with Andretti Autosport through all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires to Belardi Auto Racing for 2017.

Blackstock is the second confirmed driver in Indy Lights next season, after 2016 teammate Dalton Kellett, who continues with Andretti into 2017.

Other confirmations figure to come after the Thanksgiving holiday this week, and with the PRI Show in Indianapolis on the horizon in December, there could well be more around then.

Belardi starred in 2016, as Zach Veach and Felix Rosenqvist each won three races this year, and the six races were the most by any team in the series.

As for Blackstock, he’d tested with Belardi in 2015 and has recently done so again this fall. He had tested with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test in Indianapolis in October, prior to that team announcing last week it would cease operations in Indy Lights next season.

Car count-wise though, Belardi team principal Brian Belardi is looking to potentially expand Belardi from two cars, which ran at most races in 2016, up to a third in 2017. Blackstock’s veteran presence will help whoever else Belardi can bring on board.

“We tested Shelby during the summer of 2015 and he responded by immediately scoring his best finish of the year for the team he was with,” Belardi said in a release, speaking of Blackstock’s podium finish at Mid-Ohio 2015. “He worked extremely well with our engineers back then, and we were impressed in our recent test at Barber Motorsports Park as well. It’s exciting to have him signed to the team for 2017. He’ll be a great addition to our family.”

Blackstock added of the switch, “Going into the 2017 season, there are going to be many changes and challenges to overcome. One of the biggest changes and, something I’m very excited about, is that I’ll be joining Belardi Auto Racing for the 2017 Indy Lights season!

“I have a brief history with the team from 2015, which made the move from Andretti Autosport a bit easier. Belardi has proven to have quick cars and I really like how the team is organized.  There will be a lot of different challenges in the 2017 season. The field will be very stout, as it has in the past, so I’m really excited to see how the team pushes me and how we tackle each challenge together! I’m very thankful and excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to get to work!”

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.

“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.