Ken Roczen is ‘more comfortable’ on his Supercross bike with a new mental attitude


With time comes clarity. At the age of 26, Ken Roczen is one of the Supercross veterans. As his 30th birthday is closer than his 20th, he is beginning to discover a different attitude toward his career and what success looks like.

The drive remains, but in the first five rounds of the 2021 Supercross season, Roczen has appeared much calmer and more poised than ever before.

“I’m more comfortable than I was back then,” Roczen told the media after winning his second consecutive race Tuesday night at Indianapolis. It was the first time he’s won back-to-back races since he shattered his left arm in a Round 3 crash in 2017. “I’m just more mature mentally when it comes to the racing side of things.

“I’m really comfortable and open-minded. I’m listening to everything – and also the critique. I’m picking everything apart when I watch the race.”

Various portrayals of this new attitude have been a running theme with Roczen in 2021. One expects to hear this type of description when results are modest. It can be a way of explaining away a less than perfect effort.

But Roczen has mentioned a variation after every race – after his second-place finish in the season opener at Houston and his fifth-place result the following week. His priorities have changed. And the result has been that his results have improved.

At the age of 19, Roczen won the Supercross 250 West title in 2013. He finished second in the 450 championship the following season, but it was three years later in 2016 when people seriously began to talk of him as one of the sport’s superstars. Pundits believed it was only a matter of time before he won the title.

In 2016 Roczen had a good, but unremarkable start to the season.

He finished fifth at Anaheim 1 and sixth the following week in San Diego. His next six attempts all ended on the podium. He won twice and finished third three times in the final six races, but a 20th-place finish in that race coupled with a stellar season for Ryan Dungey kept him from winning to championship. Roczen finished second.

Then came 2017. Roczen came out of the gate fast, winning the first two rounds back-to-back. A horrific crash shattered his left wrist in Round 3.

Until this week, Roczen failed to score consecutive wins over more than four years.

Last year’s St Louis win in Round 2 of 2020 was his first in three years.

“I only had four wins last season,” Roczen said. “That was the only four over a thousand days, so it’s not like I’ve won a lot since (2017). I’m just enjoying every single step.”

The last four seasons have been tough. Roczen has battled more injuries, fatigue and a bout with shingles. He chose to sit out last year’s outdoor season to fully recuperate. Also to spend time with his newborn son Griffin Roczen, who joined the family in September, and his wife Courtney.

It may have been the best decision of his career. That pause in the action reset his mental compass.

“It’s really difficult to compare even though I was great in ’16 and ’17, I’m mentally in a completely different spot,” Roczen said. “Back then I feel like I rode the highs a lot more than I do now. In general, I just quite a bit older and a lot has happened between there and now. So it’s really hard for me to compare that kind of stuff.”

Roczen turns 27 in April.

“I had fun out there. I’m still over the moon about it, but at the same time I’ve learned from the past to keep it super-mellow,” Roczen said. “When I show up on Saturday I’m going to try and do the same thing again, but I don’t let this high get too high on me.

“But of course I’m over the moon.”

Mindfulness, gratitude and managing expectations are now a constant mantra.

“I’m just thankful to be in this position,” Roczen said in a press release following his fifth consecutive top five last Saturday at Indy. “I’m going to continue leaving everything on the track and keep thriving the way I am right now. I’m going to enjoy this today and tomorrow, then come back like nothing ever happened and try again on Saturday.”

Josef Newgarden claims first Indy 500 victory, outdueling Marcus Ericsson in 1-lap shootout


INDIANAPOLIS — Josef Newgarden won the 107th Indy 500 with a last-lap pass of Marcus Ericsson, giving team owner Roger Penske his 19th victory in the race but his first as the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In a one-lap shootout after the third red flag in the final 20 laps, Newgarden grabbed the lead from Ericsson on the backstretch and then weaved his way to the checkered flag (mimicking the same moves Ericsson had made to win at the Brickyard last year). Santino Ferrucci finished third for AJ Foyt Racing, maintaining his streak of finishing in the top 10 in all five of his Indianapolis 500 starts.

“I’m just so thankful to be here,” Newgarden told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “You have no idea. I started out as a fan in the crowd. And this place, it’s amazing.

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“Regardless of where you’re sitting. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving the car, you’re working on it or you’re out here in the crowd. You’re a part of this event and the energy. So thank you to Indianapolis. I love this city. I grew up racing karts here when I was a kid. I’m just so thankful for Roger and (team president) Tim (Cindric) and everybody at Team Penske.

“I just felt like everyone kept asking me why I haven’t won this race. They look at you like you’re a failure if you don’t win it, and I wanted to win it so bad. I knew we could. I knew we were capable. It’s a huge team effort. I’m so glad to be here.”

After Newgarden finally got his first Indy 500 victory on his 12th attempt the two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion climbed out of his No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet, squeezed through a hole in the catchfence and ran into the stands to celebrate with fans.

“I’ve always wanted to go into the crowd at Indianapolis,” Newgarden said. “I wanted to go through the fence. I wanted to celebrate with the people. I just thought it would be so cool because I know what that energy is like on race day. This was a dreram of mine. If this was ever going to happen, I wanted to do that.”

Pole-sitter Alex Palou rebounded to finish fourth after a collision in the pits near the midpoint. Alexander Rossi took fifth.

The race was stopped three times for 37 minutes for three crashes, including a terrifying wreck involving Felix Rosenqvist and Kyle Kirkwood that sent a tire over the Turn 2 catchfence.

It had been relatively clean with only two yellow flags until the final 50 miles.

After spending the first half of the race trading the lead, pole-sitter Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay (who started second) collided while exiting the pits under yellow on Lap 94.

Leaving the pits after leading 24 laps, VeeKay lost control under acceleration. He looped his No. 21 Dallara-Chevy into the No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Palou that already had left the first pit stall after completing its stop,

Palou, who had led 36 laps. stayed on the lead lap despite multiple stops to replace the front wing but restarted in 28th.

“What an absolute legend trying to win it,” Palou sarcastically radioed his team about VeeKay, who received a drive-through penalty for the contact when the race returned to green.

The incident happened after the first yellow flag on Lap 92 after Sting Ray Robb slapped the outside wall in Turn 1 after battling with Graham Rahal.

Robb put the blame on Rahal in an interview with NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch.

“I think I just need to pay more attention to the stereotypes of the series,” Robb said. “Pay attention to who I’m racing, and that was just way too aggressive of a move I thought. But yeah, I guess we’re in the wall and not much further to say.”

An already miserable May for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing continued before the race even started.

Rahal, who failed to qualify but started his 16th consecutive Indy 500 in place of the injured Stefan Wilson, was unable to start his No. 24 for Dreyer & Reinbold/Cusick Motorsports.

After two aborted attempts at firing the car’s Chevrolet engine, team members pushed Rahal behind the pit wall and swapped out a dead battery. Rahal finally joined the field on the third lap, but he wouldn’t finish last.

RLL teammate Katherine Legge, who had been involved in the Monday practice crash that fractured Wilson’s back, struggled with the handling on her No. 44 Dallara-Honda and nearly spun while exiting the pits after her first stop on Lap 35.

Legge exited her car about 30 laps later as her team began working to fix a steering problem.