Alex Palou, Patricio O’Ward earn top-fives for Young Guns in the 105th Indy 500

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Alex Palou, 24, finished second in his second Indy 500 while Helio Castroneves, 45, became the fourth driver to win his fourth Borg Warner trophy.

Cameras were focused on the tight battle between Castroneves, Palou, Patricio O’Ward, Simon Pagenaud, and Ed Carpenter as one of the top storylines of the weekend played out. All week, questions have centered on whether the 105th Running of the Indy 500 would be dominated by youth or experience.

“Oh man, it hurts around here,” Palou told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee while pointing to his heart. “This is the Indy 500. I cannot be angry about finishing second. But we had the car to win. We had the best car. It was amazing. And Honda, man, Honda gave us a lot of speed today.

“Super proud of finishing second. It hurts a lot, as I said, but it was a good battle with Helio. It’s better when you lose to the best in the business.”

The Indy 500 pays double points, so this was a great time for Palou to score a podium finish. He entered the Indy 500 third in the points with a 26-point deficit, but with Scott Dixon’s troubled race week, when he ran out of gas in the pits and settled for 17th, Palou left with a 36-point advantage and the championship lead.

Experience took the top spot and three positions in the top five, but Palou and O’Ward, 22, represented the Young Guns well.

The difference between Palou’s two Indy 500s could not have been greater. Last year he qualified seventh, but crashed and failed to finish on Lap 121.

O’Ward was the 2020 Rookie of the Race with a sixth-place finish after starting 15th. He was the only rookie driver to finish on the lead lap.

In 2021, he improved across the board. O’Ward qualified 12th and led 17 laps. Those were the first laps he’s led at the Brickyard.

He improved his race finish to fourth, and gave up the final spot on the podium on the last lap when he was passed by Simon Pagenaud, 37.

“I really think we did a perfect race,” O’Ward told NBC Sports’ Dave Burns. “I really don’t think we could have done anything better. We just needed to be faster at the end. The balance of the car was pretty phenomenal the whole way.

“I would have loved to get this win for everyone, but we didn’t have enough speed. When they let me loose, I knew they were going to let the guys in front of me loose – and I didn’t have enough to catch them.”

O’Ward’s race strategy and setup were helped by his third-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in the first of a double header. He won the second race.

O’Ward dropped to third in the points’ standings, but trails second-place Dixon by only one point.

“I’m kind of bummed that we lost third to Simon at the end, but I took a risk to try and get a mega run on the leaders and it didn’t work out.” O’Ward said.

Rinus VeeKay and Colton Herta also had solid runs for the Young Guns.

VeeKay started on the outside of the third row and finished ninth.

Herta started second and raced with the leaders for most of the event until fell off the pace near the end and finished 16th.

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.