Toronto a final chance for street course success in 2017

Photo: IndyCar

Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (3:00 p.m. ET, CNBC) marks the final street course of 2017 for the Verizon IndyCar Series. The previous four street races (St. Petersburg, Long Beach, and the Detroit doubleheader), have been a mixed bag of sorts.

Heavy hitters Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, and Josef Newgarden have all finished inside the top ten at every street race this year, with Dixon faring the best with finishes of third, fourth, second, and sixth.

However, a number of drivers will be hoping to turn around a season of hard luck on street courses this weekend. Chief among them is likely Ryan Hunter-Reay, who has been fast at every street course this year, but has also suffered horrible luck.

Though his season started off well with a fourth-place finish at St. Petersburg, Hunter-Reay has finishes of 17th, 13th, and 17th at the other street events, this despite showing strong pace at Long Beach and Detroit Race 2 in particular. However, an electronics failure at Long Beach and contact at Detroit Race 2 left him with finishes far worse than expected.

Still, Hunter-Reay remains upbeat ahead of the weekend. “Toronto is such a great track and is a great city. It’s one of my favorite cities to go to and Racing for Cancer is having The Rally there this year, co-hosted with James Hinchcliffe. It’s going to be a fun weekend, and hopefully, we can go for win No. 2 for the DHL team in Toronto,” said the 2012 Toronto winner.

Ryan Hunter-Reay in practice at St. Pete: Photo: IndyCar

Teammate Alexander Rossi will also look to score better at Toronto than the other street circuits, notably at St. Petersburg and Long Beach, where he finished 11th and 19th (Long Beach saw him suffer an engine failure). However, he rebounded nicely at Detroit, scoring finishes of fifth and seventh.

Max Chilton (16-14-11-15), JR Hildebrand (13-11-17-18), Marco Andretti (7-20-12-13), and Conor Daly (15-16-22-12) are also among those looking to end the 2017 street courses on a high note in Toronto.

One driver to watch, however, will be Graham Rahal, the man who swept the weekend at Detroit and could have finished on the podium at Long Beach if not for contact that punctured a tire late in the race.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s road and street course program has become as strong as anyone’s in the Verizon IndyCar Series, with Rahal scoring three wins and eight total podiums on road and street courses since 2015.

“I feel like we are in a pretty good spot with the basic setup for our race car for street courses, so I hope it’s a really strong weekend for the Rousseau Metal Honda,” said Rahal.

“The course is very similar to Detroit in many ways. It’s very bumpy, very tight and there are no margins for error. There are a lot of different pavement types and it’s very slippery on the concrete, which make it similar to Detroit. Going there with the setup basics that brought us two wins in Detroit gives us reason to be confident heading to Toronto and hopefully it works out like it did in Detroit.”

First practice for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto begins Friday at 10:40 a.m. ET.

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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.

“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.