Ken Roczen taking a wait and see approach to 2021 Pro Motocross season

Roczen Motocross
ProMotocross.com / Matt Rice
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After missing the 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, questions abound about just how competitive Ken Roczen will be. And most of those questions are centered in the Honda Racing rider’s brain.

“I’ve done as much as I can in the last couple of weeks,” Roczen said in a preseason press conference ahead of Saturday’s race at Fox Raceway in Pala, Calif. Saturday, May 29 on Peacock and NBCSN. “I just want to build every single weekend. It’s really difficult to say for me where I’m going to be and how good I’m going to feel throughout the motos, but I’m willing to put my head down and focus and learn every weekend.

“I know it’s not the ideal situation to be in, but I’ve got to take it the way it is now.”

Last year after finishing third in a Supercross season that finished late because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Roczen made the difficult decision to sit out Pro Motocross. He had been plagued by injuries and illness in recent years. He and his wife Courtney were expecting their first child, and the focus needed to be on healing.

“Taking this shortened outdoor season off was a very difficult decision, but I’m confident it’s what’s best for me and my team in the long run,” Roczen said at the time. “It will be good to regroup, let my body heal, enjoy this important experience with Courtney, and build back up for 2021.”

It was the second time in the last four years that he missed the outdoor season. Roczen was also forced to sit out 2017 with an injury to his arm.

“It’s been a minute since I’ve ridden outdoors,” Roczen said. “I’ve done this pretty much my whole life – it’s what I grew up on – but I kind of felt a disconnect to be honest. During the time last year when everybody was racing, I was forced to take it easy.

“I was going out and pounding motos, so I might as well would have raced, but I didn’t do that. And then we went straight back into Supercross, so I haven’t really ridden Motocross for quite some time. Just been feeling a bit of a disconnect with it. Trying to adjust to the speed and keep my momentum up.”

His loss was felt by the sport. Since moving up to the 450 class, Roczen has been a perennial favorite to win the championship. He took the title in his rookie season of 2014, finished second in 2015 and then won again in 2016.

After missing 2017, Roczen finished third in 2018 and was second in 2019. That year and throughout 2020, he regularly complained of overheating toward the end of races, with what was later revealed to be a battle with shingles.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m a hundred percent as in how good I’ve been in the past – how ready I have been,” Roczen said “The speed that it takes in Motocross – it used to come to me quickly because I used to race every outdoor season and then I would ride quite a bit between the rounds, but then being in the championship hunt in Supercross, I was just focusing on that.”

For Roczen to question his ability is not new. He is one of the most outwardly self-reflective riders in the field. And since he is comparing himself to himself – a rider with five top-three points’ finishes in five MX seasons – the bar has been set quite high.

“As far as expectations for this coming weekend, I don’t really have any right now to be honest,” Roczen said. “I want to see where I’m at and build each and every weekend from there on out.”

In the last four Pro Motocross races of 2019, Roczen won once at Unadilla MX in New Berlin, NY and he finished second twice. It’s likely that even a slightly slower Roczen will do just fine at Fox Raceway.

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”