POWER-ful show: Will Power dominates to capture 3rd INDYCAR Grand Prix

IndyCar
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Will Power held off low fuel, a few late rain drops and a hard charging Scott Dixon to win his second consecutive INDYCAR Grand Prix and third overall Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Power led 55 of the race’s 85 laps to earn his first win of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season and his 33rd career IndyCar win. It was also the third time he won the Grand Prix from the pole in the race’s five-year history.

“I definitely am going to relax for a couple days because I’m exhausted, I’m tired,” Power said.

Now, Power turns his attention to the Indianapolis 500, perhaps the biggest void to his career as he’s never won the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

“I’ve been thinking about it a lot, I can’t wait,” Power said.

Power’s win was also Team Penske’s 200th career IndyCar win.

“It’s amazing, it shows the dedication that Roger has to winning, the quality of the team and it’s just a real honor to drive for him,” Power said of team owner Roger Penske. “I’m real privileged to drive for him.”

Dixon finished second, 2.2443 seconds behind Power, followed by Robert Wickens.

“We really chased our tails this weekend,” Dixon said. “We made a kind of bad change in qualifying (on Friday) and changed just about everything but the kitchen sink. And I guess we needed to change the kitchen sink, too.

“We made some big gains this morning and got the car fairly well-balanced and just played strategy.”

Wickens admitted he needs to become more proficient at fuel saving, as he was in save mode for most of the second half of the race.

“I guess I’m not as efficient at fuel saving, but we made it,” Wickens said. “(Dixon) got past me on push-to-pass … but at the end, I got on the podium.

“It’s the first time I had to save fuel like that, would have liked a higher finish, but I can’t complain.”

St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais and Alexander Rossi rounded out the top five.

“I was loose most of the race and when I’d gain on someone, I’d lose just enough grip that I couldn’t really quite close the gap,” Bourdais said. ”

Sixth through 10th were Helio Castroneves, James Hinchcliffe, two-time Grand Prix winner Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal and defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato.

Action was hot and heavy right from the green flag.

On the opening lap, Simon Pagenaud touched wheels with Takuma Sato and was then tapped from behind by Jordan King coming out of Turn 2, spinning Pagenaud. While Pagenaud was able to continue on, King was stuck in the gravel and had to be towed out.

Then, just a couple turns later, Spencer Pigot soared over the rumble strip and went airborne, clipping Sato, who was able to continue. Pigot was penalized for avoidable contact and had to do a pass-through on pit lane.

Pole sitter Will Power held the lead through the first 24 laps before outside pole sitter Robert Wickens was able to get by Power for the lead.

On Lap 51, Power edged past Wickens to regain the lead and began to pull away – until an incident involving Power’s Team Penske teammate.

On Lap 55, defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden came into Turn 12 too hot while trying to pass Sebastien Bourdais, looped it around and landed in the grass, unable to exit under his own power.

Power broke out to another big lead shortly after the restart on Lap 62, while Wickens and Scott Dixon traded places (second and third) on Lap 64.

Dixon, who started an uncharacteristic 18th, methodically worked his way through the pack and continued to close in on Power in the final 20 laps.

Wickens fell more than 5.5 seconds off the pace between laps 65 and 75, while Alexander Rossi tried to keep pace in fourth. Both drivers – as well as second-running Dixon – needed a late caution, but they would not get it, and Power would roll to his second straight win in the GP and third overall (also won in 2015).

Newgarden finished 11th but maintains a two-point lead in the series’ standings over Rossi.

 

Now, the series begins two weeks of preparation, practices and qualifying (May 19-20) before the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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.”