Jimmie Johnson, Romain Grosjean scheduled to try Indy 500 rookie program Wednesday

Johnson Grosjean Indy 500 rookie
Jenna Watson/IndyStar via USA TODAY SPORTS NETWORK

Jimmie Johnson and Romain Grosjean will turn laps on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval for the first time Wednesday, attempting to complete the Rookie Orientation Program for the 106th Indy 500 next year.

The session will begin at 10:30 a.m. ET (updated from an original noon start time because of the weather forecast) as Johnson and Grosjean, who focused on road and street courses as NTT IndyCar Series rookies, run through the test required before qualifying and racing for the Indy 500.

Grosjean recently announced he will run a full-time schedule for Andretti Autosport next season, and Johnson is expected to add the Indy 500 to his part-time schedule next year with Chip Ganassi Racing.

The Rookie Orientation Program involves drivers advancing through three phases of controlled speeds around the 2.5-mile layout.

Grosjean made his oval debut last year at World Wide Technology Raceway, finishing 14th with Dale Coyne Racing.

Johnson tested on an IndyCar oval for the first time Aug. 30 at Texas Motor Speedway, hitting average speeds of over 214 mph on the 1.5-mile oval. Teammate Scott Dixon shook down his No. 48 Dallara-Honda, and Johnson also got pointers from Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti.

After turning about 200 laps at Texas, Johnson said he was “definitely a step closer” to racing at the Indy 500.

“I think that there are more conversations to be had with family, team and sponsors, at least another test session ahead of me before I can really make a decision,” he said. “but driving the car only piqued my interest more.”

There is a possibility that the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion could add more oval races to his 2022 schedule, though it would require additional sponsorship as well as greater acclimation to turning left in IndyCar after doing it for nearly two decades in NASCAR.

“There’s still so many hurdles between now and one event that to look at the others is tough at this point,” he said. “I will need to face that decision and that opportunity in the somewhat near future, and we’ll just see how this next test session (at Indy) goes and really how everything aligns.”

Johnson and Grosjean just wrapped their rookie seasons in IndyCar on an upward trajectory. Grosjean scored his third podium finish of the season at Laguna Seca Raceway (after colliding with Johnson before taking third). Johnson tied a career-best finish in the Grand Prix of Long Beach season finale, finishing 17th for the second consecutive race.

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.