Franzoni captures decisive Pro Mazda win Saturday at Watkins Glen

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – For the second straight race, Victor Franzoni stalked his prey running ahead of him in Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires competition – Anthony Martin – and for the second straight race he made the move by for the lead and the win.

Franzoni, the Brazilian, got the pole in his No. 23 Juncos Racing entry but lost the lead on the opening lap to Martin’s No. 8 Cape Motorsports car off the line. Contact between Team Pelfrey teammates Robert Megennis and Nikita Lastochkin on Lap 2 brought out a full-course caution.

While Martin led from the restart on Lap 5, Franzoni stalked him – with gaps anywhere from 0.2 to 0.4 of a second as Franzoni tried to use a run up the hill in the esses to pass Martin on the outside. But Martin was able to defend.

The Australian, however, was not able to do so for the rest of the 30-minute race.

On Lap 12, Franzoni got an earlier run on Martin up the hill and made it past the Australian around the outside into the Bus Stop chicane. The outside pass of Martin for the lead was the same as was done last week at Gateway Motorsports Park.

“Every time you learn a bit more. I tried the outside of Turn 7 and it didn’t work. I thought I’d lose too much time!” Franzoni told NBC Sports post-race. “That lap, now it’s my chance. We can see in the straight how much time left. I was seeing 20-22-23 minutes! I was excited as I had to do something. It was risky to overtake; I think there’s such a small space but I had to go for it to overtake.”

What was a gap of only a couple tenths from there grew to a final margin of victory of 3.5743 seconds, for his sixth win of the year in 11 races.

With Franzoni scoring two bonus points for pole and fastest race lap (a 1:43.574 to Martin’s 1:44.277), he now takes an unofficial eight point lead on Martin into Sunday’s season finale, 319-311. Martin got one bonus point for leading the most laps, 11 of the 14 but not the one that counted most.

Martin was, like last week, left to tip his cap to Franzoni.

“My car was very good first couple laps. I was able to get the lead and hold onto it for a bit. It exponentially got worse and worse. I was just, I knew he had a run on me going into the Bus Stop. I had to do what I could to defend. Only so much you can do. We’ll go into tomorrow for a wet one, and do the best I can,” Martin said.

Carlos Cunha upheld Pelfrey’s honor with his fourth consecutive third place finish, with Sting Ray Robb and Kris Wright scoring season best finishes for World Speed Motorsports and JDC Motorsports to complete the top five finishers.

The second race of the weekend and the final race for the Mazda Renesis rotary engine takes place Sunday morning at 7:55 a.m., with more than $790,000 available to the season champion to step up into Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

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.