Joe Roberts happy to make mistakes because they reveal the right direction in Moto2

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For Joe Roberts, the 24-year-old American rider in Moto2, mistakes are not a necessary evil, they are simply necessary.

Prior to the Grand Prix of Qatar, which can be seen Sunday, 1:30 ET on CNBC, Roberts joined NBC’s Parker Kligerman via Zoom from his home in Barcelona to discuss preseason testing and the end of his 2021 season. The complete interview can be viewed above.

“(Testing) was really important to understanding this bike; how we can get this thing running up front all of the time,” Roberts said. “Even laps that were terrible were valuable to me because I learned what not to do.

“We had a couple of fast laps that came together. I still think we have some work to do, but overall I’m happy because we went the wrong way, so I know which way to go. Which is the right way.

“When we started to go in that direction, things got quicker and quicker.”

After scoring his first Moto2 podium for American Racing in 2020 and finishing seventh in the points, Roberts hit the track in 2021 with a new team.

Expectations were high at Italtrans Racing. Roberts came close to earning a second podium in the Italian Grand Prix, but incurred a controversial penalty for exceeding track limits

Then he suffered a broken collarbone at Misano in October.

What should have been an easy repair turned out to be not so simple. He tried to come back too soon and the plate broke apart, taking bits of the bone with it, and Roberts was done for the season.

But that did not dull Roberts’ enthusiasm for fast, flowing tracks with long straightaways.

On this type of course, which includes this weekend’s venue in Qatar, “you feel like you’re flowing,” Roberts said. “When you hit the ground, you know how fast you’re going, but prior to that you just feel like you’re gliding on the track.”

Gliding down the straights is fun, but speed is gained in the corners. During the offseason, Roberts spent a lot of time on short road courses, drifting through tight corners like a sprint car.

“Supermoto for me is really fun to ride a bike like that and slide it into the corners, but it teaches a lot of mental discipline,” Roberts said. “I go to ride Supermoto – and I go alone most of the time – and I just hammer out laps. I try to be perfect every lap.

“It’s my kind of thing, because Moto2 comes down to those little tenths, those little margins that separate you from first to 10th or 20th.”

Jenson Button joins NASCAR Garage 56 at Le Mans with Jimmie Johnson, Rockenfeller

Jenson Button NASCAR Le Mans
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Garage 56 entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be driven by champions of three major-league series — Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The lineup of the Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Next Gen Camaro was announced Saturday before the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

NASCAR’s Garage 56 project was announced in March 2022 as a joint effort by NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear. It marks the return of a NASCAR team to Le Mans for the first time in nearly 50 years with Hendrick fielding a Camaro ZL1 as the “Garage 56” entry in the 100th edition of the sports car classic.

It’s long been expected the car would include Johnson, the seven-time Cup Series champion who is returning to NASCAR’s premier series as a driver-owner in 2023. Rockenfeller, the 2013 DTM champion and 2010 Le Mans overall winner, has attended every NASCAR Garage 56 test since last year while racking up simulator testing hours.

The surprise was Button, the 2009 Formula One champion who has become a popular commentator. Rick Hendrick initially said wanted four-time Cup champion and current Hendrick Motorsports COO Jeff Gordon to drive the car, and Gordon had raced a sports car at Indianapolis last year to test his race shape.

GARAGE 56 ANSWERS, ANALYSISMore on the NASCAR-Hendrick entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans

“Since the beginning of the Garage 56 project, it has been our goal to partner with the top racers in the world to represent us in Le Mans,” NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France said in a release. “The lineup of Jimmie, ‘Rocky’ and Jenson is everything we could have dreamed of – three elite drivers who have won at the highest levels of motorsports worldwide. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of NASCAR, we are honored to have these world-class champions help bring the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race car to fans in Le Mans, and across the world.”

Button had one of the most prolific careers in F1 history finishing with 15 wins and 50 podiums on top of his 2009 World Championship and is widely considered one of the top British drivers of all time.

“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” Button said in a release. “In June, a number of those dreams will come true in one event when I get to bring NASCAR to the world stage alongside my pals Jimmie and ‘Rocky’ for the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious race in the world. I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and current and future NASCAR fans from around the world.”

Johnson will make his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut a year after starting his first Indy 500. He has 83 victories in the Cup Series, where he will return for the Daytona 500 next month with his Legacy Motor Club team.

He also has been involved with testing the Garage 56 Camaro.

“I’m super thrilled – it’s been at the top of my bucket list to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday,” Johnson said. “To have this opportunity come – and to partner with everybody and this driver lineup – is truly an incredible opportunity and one that I am thankful to be a part of.”

Rockenfeller teamed with Johnson on the No. 48 Ally Cadillac in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2021-22. The German driver has been the lead test driver for Garage 56 and has driven during every on-track test.

“It has been a great journey so far with the whole team and project,” Rockenfeller said. “To be involved as a driver from day one until now was already a great honor, and to now have Jimmie and Jenson alongside me as teammates in Le Mans is unbelievable.”

The car will continue testing with all three drivers next week at the Daytona International Speedway road course. Rolex 24 and four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, who drives for Corvette Racing, will be the team’s backup driver and coach. Taylor also won the GTE Pro class in 2015 at Le Mans, where he has four podium finishes.

The project also is being supported by IMSA GTP team Action Express, whose general manager is former NASCAR executive and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Gary Nelson. Action Express built the first test car for the Garage 56 but since has handed off the project to Hendrick, where it’s being over seen by vice president of competition Chad Knaus (the crew chief for Johnson’s seven championships).

“Action Express got it going and built the mule car, and then Hendrick joined the program, took it from where we had it, and they’re doing a major percentage of the work,” Nelson told NBC Sports. “We just did a test a couple months ago on a wet track. We’ve done a couple of other tests as they were ramping their program up. Now their car is good, tested and running. We’re still involved and here to help. The Hendrick guys have taken the reins, and Rick Hendrick and Chad Knaus are a thrill to work with and doing a much better job. It’s more NASCAR than prototype racing.”