Ken Roczen wins Supercross Round 1 at Anaheim, renews battle with Cooper Webb


Ken Roczen drew first blood for the fourth time in his career as the winner of Round 1 of the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross season at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

He beat last year’s champion Cooper Webb to the line by a little more than 7 seconds, after leading all 22 laps, but the race was anything but a runaway for Roczen, who hadn’t ridden much last month while recovering from an illness.

“My December has been horrendous,” a “completely surprised” Roczen told NBC Sports reporter Will Christien from the top of the podium. “Me and the team, we tried to do as much work as we can get to get better, of course. But I didn’t expect that at all coming here. But at the same time, once racing starts, I’m always more of a racer.”

Roczen has battled illness for the past couple of seasons and spent most of the final month of 2021 trying to get healthy enough to challenge for the championship.

Last year, he finished second to Webb in a hotly contested battle for the top spot.

Roczen held a large lead for most of Saturday night’s main event after Honda teammate Chase Sexton challenged hard for the lead in the first 5 minutes and then fell twice.

“We just really focused on our starts, and everything just went right, and I’m very thankful for that,” Roczen said. “The track was brutal. Towards the end I was just (trying) to keep it on two wheels. It’s kind of a weird position when you have that much of a gap and so many minutes to go. I really just tried to manage it and pushed as much as I had to and made it through.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 main event in Anaheim

Roczen started the night by winning his heat over Justin Brayton.

Webb was shuffled back in the opening laps and had to charge through the field.

In the closing laps, he had the fastest bike, reducing a deficit that at one point was nearly 13 seconds. Still, Webb was not disappointed with his runner-up finish. After finishing ninth in last year’s opener at Houston, he was mindful that this was one of his best starts.

“It was a dogfight tonight,” Webb said from the second step of the podium. “Fun race. A really tough race. The track got really rough and a lot of us were out front just duking it out.”

Justin Barcia came into the race seeking a record fourth opening night win. He fell short, but still landed on the podium in third.

“That was an awesome race, I had a lot of fun,” said Barcia, who emerged unscathed from a late battle for a podium spot with Jason Anderson (who fell and finished 11th). “Some great battles out there. The whole day was steady, smooth, smart. I felt like a veteran today. It was awesome.”

Marvin Musquin and Sexton both had eventful races that saw them hit the dirt.

Musquin rebounded to finish fourth.

Sexton spent the first half of the race on the back fender of his teammate Roczen. He applied pressure while avoiding contact until the first of two crashes but still had the speed to rebound for fifth.

“That one was kind of tough; I kind of feel like an idiot for making those two mistakes,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair. “The first one caught me really far off guard, and the second was just me riding off emotion. But I didn’t give up.

“Man, that was frustrating. It’s not the first time I’ve been the fastest but don’t get the win. Go back to work on some more whoop practice and try not to make that little mistake again.”

At the time, the beneficiary of Sexton’s crash was Adam Cianciarulo, who has been battling with a shoulder injury sustained in a preseason practice crash. During the weekend, Cianciarulo complained about soreness and during practice for Round 1, he had difficulty making long runs.

Still, Cianciarulo managed to run among the top three for more than half of the Main after finishing seventh in his heat. As the shoulder weakened, he fell back into the clutches of one rider after another and ultimately finished 11th.

Tension was high in the season opener.

As the two battled for position, Musquin and Malcolm Stewart made contact. The discussion got heated as they left the track and headed for the tunnel. With Musquin in fourth and Stewart in seventh, both had a solid points’ day.

The opening round of the 250 West class went to Christian Craig for the second consecutive year. Craig, 30, knows that time is running out on his 250 career and wants to make the most of his opportunity in 2022.

“This is bucket list for me,” Craig told NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair after the race. “I grew up in those stands right there. I remember vividly watching Main events right there as a kid.  and now I’m here on the stage.”

Craig got a good start, but it was Vince Friese who earned the holeshot and led the first three laps. His pace was not quite enough to hold the field at bay, and Friese held up Craig and Seth Hammaker for the first few trips around the track. Once the leaders got around him, they opened a gap, but by then a determined Hunter Lawrence was in pursuit.

“You think you’re ready (for the season), but until qualification you don’t really know,” Craig said in the post-race press conference.

Lawrence had one of the fastest bikes over the last several laps and closed on Garrett Marchbanks, who was running third on the white flag lap. Lawrence slipped past Marchbanks and almost nipped Hammaker in the final turn. The two riders crossed over the finish line inches apart.

“That was a wild race,” Hammaker said from the second step of the podium. “Probably one of the craziest I’ve ever been in.

“Those last couple of laps with Garrett (Marchbanks) behind me. And I saw Hunter Lawrence was coming too and I said I got to plan my passes around the lappers, hit the whoops and not let them get too close.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

“Me and Hunter had a pretty gnarly moment before the finish line.”

Lawrence was a last-minute addition to the 250 West field. Originally designated to run in the East division, he was pressed into service when his brother, Jett Lawrence, sustained a minor injury during the offseason. In order to give Jett a few more weeks to heal, Hunter took over his ride.

“I was trying to get the spot, but wanted be a little bit civilized,” Hunter Lawrence said immediately following the race. This was his fifth career podium in his first attempt in Anaheim.

Marchbanks held on to fourth with Friese rounding out the top five.

The season got off to a brutal start for a couple of top-rated riders.

In Heat 1, last year’s 250 West champion Colt Nichols had the early lead until he endoed in the first of two extremely challenging whoop sections. Nichol’s bike landed on him hard and even though the Alpine Stars Medical team was immediately on the spot, Nichols was in too precarious position to place him on the cart. He laid just off the racing surface and watched the race finish the final three laps without him.

The news was worse for Jalek Swoll. He crashed hard in the first rhythm section early in Heat 2, bringing out a red flag and complete restart. Swoll was carted off course on a back board.

Both riders were done for the night.

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws

The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)