Things looking up for Marco Andretti after 6th-place finish at Long Beach

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It wasn’t a win; heck, it wasn’t even a top-five.

But Marco Andretti was pleased with his sixth-place finish in Sunday’s IndyCar Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Being his second top-10 in three races of the 2018 season, Long Beach marked Andretti’s best result yet. His previous best was a ninth on the other road course in St Petersburg.

And while the race results have been decent, Andretti has struggled to find the right setup for qualifying. Starting 18th in the season-opener, Andretti’s ninth-place finish was hard fought. He was even worse in qualification trim at Phoenix, starting 20th on the grid.

“I’m making my Sunday’s miserable,” Rahal said in a post-race interview. “As soon as I get my qualifying together, I think we’re going to win a race.”

Long Beach was another disappointing start for Andretti. Mired deep in the 24-car field, he rolled off the grid 20th for the second consecutive race – behind the opening lap chaos that erupted between Simon Pagenaud and Graham Rahal.

“We passed 14 cars today – something like that,” Andretti said. “We raced really well. (Saturday) I just made a mistake in qualifying on the brakes.”

Andretti was able to manage traffic a little better in Long Beach than St Petersburg, but it was not an easy task.

“(There was) a lot of slicing and dicing mid-pack,” Andretti said.

Now he shifts from two street courses in the first three races to a permanent road course — Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama — this weekend. In eight starts there, he has three top-five and two other top-10 finishes.

But the third-generation Andretti family racer is also coming off his worst finish at Barber in last year’s race (21st), so his strong finishes thus far this season, as well as his prediction of winning a race this year, couldn’t come at a better place or time.

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.