Social roundup: Takuma Sato leads IndyCar back on track in offseason test at Brickyard

IndyCar offseason testing
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Led by two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato, the NTT IndyCar Series was back on track Wednesday afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for its first session of offseason testing.

According to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Sato was back in the race-winning chassis from Aug. 23 when he outdueled series champion Scott Dixon to put his face on the Borg-Warner Trophy for the second time.

Dixon, who clinched his sixth title Sunday, was among other drivers who are scheduled to turn laps Friday at IMS after the Indianapolis Star reported that the track had postponed a Thursday session by a day because of inclement weather.

Fellow New Zealand native Scott McLaughlin, who will be a full-time IndyCar rookie next season, was on track Wednesday along with Sato and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden.

McLaughlin completed his mandatory Rookie Orientation program for next year’s Brickyard, receiving pointers from four-time Indy 500 winner (and longtime Team Penske consultant) Rick Mears.

McLaughlin, a three-time champion on the Australian Supercars series that races road courses, later tweeted that he had passed the test after turning the fastest laps of his life.

After some track prep in the morning to dry the 2.5-mile oval, the session began about 90 minutes later than its originally scheduled 11 a.m. start and ended at around 6 p.m. ET.

According to IMS, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ed Carpenter and Pato O’Ward also were expected to make laps on the test’s second day.

IndyCar offseason testing will continue from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday at the Brickyard.

IMS will open the Turn 2 viewing mounds to fans, who will be admitted free and must wear face coverings and follow social distancing.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
Align Media

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.