Sage Karam wins IndyCar iRacing inaugural event at Watkins Glen

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VIRTUAL WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — Sage Karam won the opener of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, leading virtually start fo finish at Watkins Glen International.

Karam, who drives a partial schedule for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, started on the pole position and was hardly challenged over the 45-lap event. He yielded the lead (to Will Power) only twice on mandatory pit stops during the caution-free American Red Cross Grand Prix.

“It was nerve-wracking for sure at the end,” Karam, who missed a spin by Kyle Kaiser late in the race to keep the lead, told the IndyCar on NBC booth of Leigh Diffey, Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. “It was a lot of fun, and it’s just great we can give the fans something to watch.”

Karam led 43 of 45 laps en route to his 144th victory in 533 road-course starts on iRacing (and 165 win overall).

Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing was second, followed by Will Power and Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske. Oliver Askew was fifth.

Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden, Santino Ferrucci, Kyle Kirkwood and Conor Daly rounded out the top 10.

WHAT DRIVERS SAID: A roundup of the postrace reaction

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson started 19th and finished two laps down in 16th after a head-on crash with the Armco barrier on Lap 34 (drivers were allowed two resets for damage).

Click here for the full box score from the race at Watkins Glen International.

Some well-known IndyCar drivers had early problems, and some were beyond their control.

The race started one short of its 25-driver field, and James Hinchcliffe explained why via social media (where he spent much of the race chatting with fans on Instagram).

“It was akin to having a throttle stick in pit lane,” Hinchcliffe told the IndyCar on NBC crew. “That was pretty unfortunate.”

Alexander Rossi (17th) fell multiple laps down after a crash with Marcus Ericsson on the second lap. Three of the four Team Penske drivers — Pagenaud, McLaughlin and Newgarden — were involved in a crash with Askew on the sixth lap.

Colton Herta (22nd) and Tony Kanaan (24th) both retired within the first 10 laps after going off course.

The race lost another entrant before the green flag. After a last-ditch effort to prepare his simulation rig, Robert Wickens was foiled when a steering wheel didn’t arrive at his Indianapolis home in time.

During an in-race interview on the stream, Wickens told Diffey that he hopes to be racing next week when the series heads to Barber Motorsports Park.

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.