Team Penske takes top 3 speeds in opening morning practice for Indy 500

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway is open and the first practice for the May 27 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 is in the books.

Rain briefly interrupted the two-hour session, which ran from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, but cars were back on track in short order once the surface dried and was inspected.

Team Penske dominated the first session with Simon Pagenaud, still searching for his first Indy 500 victory, having the fastest lap at 225.787 mph.

Helio Castroneves, hoping to earn his fourth career Indy 500 victory, which would tie him for most triumphs at the Brickyard with Al Unser, A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears, was second-fastest at 223.445 mph.

Josef Newgarden was third-fastest at 223.229 mph, followed by Marco Andretti in the fastest Honda (223.214 mph), Ed Carpenter (223.124 mph), INDYCAR Grand Prix winner Will Power (222.839 mph), Scott Dixon (222.734 mph), Carlos Munoz (222.584), Zach Veach (222.262) and J.R. Hildebrand (221.620).

A total of 25 of the 35 drivers entered in the 500 took to the track for the first session.

Then, from 1 to 3 p.m. ET, there was a two-hour session for Stefan Wilson, Pippa Mann, James Davison, Oriol Servia to undergo refresher sessions, and Zachary Claman Demelo – who earlier in the day was named to replace the injured Pietro Fittipaldi in the 500 – to complete his Rookie Orientation Program.

Claman Demelo was fastest of the group (220.852 mph), followed by Wilson (218.186 mph), Servia (217.209) and Davison (217.169). Mann did not come out on the track, but is expected to do so for the final practice of the day.

Rain is in the forecast for this afternoon, which could impact the third and final practice of the day, which is slated to run from 3 to 6 p.m. ET. In addition to veteran drivers, others expected to take to the track for the first time include Danica Patrick, Robert Wickens, Jay Howard, Sage Karam, Matheus Leist and Kyle Kaiser.

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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.