MRTI: Askew takes critical USF2000 pole

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires kicked off its Friday action from Watkins Glen International early in the morning, with qualifying for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at 8:00 a.m. ET and second practice for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires at 8:45 a.m. ET.

Below are quick reports for both sessions.

USF2000

Qualifying for this weekend’s USF2000 season finale saw an all-out duel between title combatants Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay.

VeeKay, who notably did not turn a flying lap in second practice on Friday to save a set of tires, was the first to drop the hammer, leading early on with a lap at 1:47.853. However, Askew overtook him in the second half of the session with a 1:47.531, and the two dueled each other from there.

In the end, after they swapped the lead a couple times between them, it was Askew securing the pole, and a critical bonus point in the process, with a quick lap of 1:46.163, which broke the track record by over six seconds. Askew’s time bettered VeeKay’s best lap of 1:46.272 by just over one tenth of a second.

The pole for Askew increases his points lead over VeeKay to 14 ahead of this afternoon’s season finale.

Kory Enders, Andres Gutierrez, and Kaylen Frederick filled out the top five. The session saw a brief red flag after Robert Megennis spun and made contact with the wall exiting Turn 1. Megennis, who is pulling double duty this weekend and running in both USF2000 and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, will start the USF2000 race from 20th.

Qualifying results are below. The final race of the USF2000 season rolls off at 1:15 p.m. ET.

Indy Lights

Aaron Telitz topped Indy Lights Practice on Saturday morning, turning a quick lap of 1:33.237. Colton Herta, Nico Jamin, Shelby Blackstock, and Neil Alberico completed the top five. Champion-elect Kyle Kaiser was ninth at the end of practice.

The session was stopped on two occasions. First, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, and Nicolas Dapero all spun in separate incidents due to cold temperatures, forcing a brief stoppage as they returned to the pits. However, all three were able to return to the track.

The second incident was for Juan Piedrahita, who locked up the brakes entering Turn 8 and hit the outside wall with the nose of the car before sliding into the gravel. Piedrahita’s No. 2 Team Pelfrey entry suffered significant damage to the front wing assembly and left-front suspension, and he was unable to return to the track.

Of note: Carlin’s Garth Rickards did not go out for practice in the morning and will not be participating in Indy Lights competition for the rest of the weekend. Rickards’ No. 11 entry incurred damage during Friday practice after going over the curbing, and the team was unable to repair the car.

 

Lap times are below. Qualifying for tomorrow’s season-ending Indy Lights race begins Saturday afternoon. at 2:15 p.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.