Dixon still leads points, but loses another win chance, at Texas

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After a chaotic to say the least Verizon IndyCar Series Rainguard Water Sealers 600 from Texas Motor Speedway, Scott Dixon could have afforded to feel aggrieved at losing yet another win chance Saturday night.

The usually unflappable “Iceman” left the track without a comment after being collected by Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato on Lap 243. Sato’s No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda tried to the inside of Dixon’s No. 9 NTT Data Honda on the dogleg of the 1.5-mile oval before coming up and into the fellow Honda.

The ensuring contact also collected Max Chilton and Conor Daly as innocent bystanders in a four-car accident that involved four cars with nearly identical blue and white paint schemes, Daly’s red, white and blue ABC Supply Co. Chevrolet standing as the only exception.

“It was an unfortunate bad situation. I had car on my right side. It bottomed out,” Sato told NBCSN’s Robin Miller. “Nothing I could do. It was a great show. Very unfortunate we couldn’t finish the race.”

Such was the chaotic night though that despite Dixon’s truncated evening he was still classified ninth, and remains the Verizon IndyCar Series points leader through nine of 17 races.

The ninth place finish is actually Dixon’s second worst result in nine races; his other, of course, was his 32nd place registered after his airborne flight at Indianapolis following contact with Jay Howard. In the other seven races he’s finished between second and sixth, yet without a win.

Simon Pagenaud drove cagily and smartly as he did earlier this year to end third, maximizing points on a day when many others didn’t. He now sits second in points with 313.

Sato, even with the contact, ended 10th and is third on 312.

Helio Castroneves crashed out early and after his first finish outside the top-10 this year, is now fourth on 305 points, while Will Power was the big mover with his win to jump from eighth to fifth on 286.

Detroit double winner Graham Rahal sits sixth on points on 283, with Josef Newgarden (277), Tony Kanaan (264), Alexander Rossi (254) and James Hinchcliffe (232) completing the top-1o in points.

Max Chilton (229) and Ed Jones (228) are only a handful of points outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th, which means that through nine races this year there are still 12 drivers within 98 points – a staggeringly close number.

With a season-best result of seventh and his first top-10 finish of the year, Daly has finally moved past nearly all those drivers who’ve missed a race this year into 19th. Previously in the last weekend, he was behind JR Hildebrand, Sebastien Bourdais, Spencer Pigot and Juan Pablo Montoya.

Hildebrand sits ahead of three drivers – Carlos Munoz, Charlie Kimball and Daly – who’ve driven in all nine races this year. The Californian missed Barber with a hand injury.

Dixon, meanwhile, heads to Le Mans for his Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT commitments, as do fellow IndyCar full-season drivers Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin, along with NBCSN analyst Townsend Bell.

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”