Josef Newgarden extends Iowa Speedway dominance for Penske with fourth win at track

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NEWTON, Iowa — Josef Newgarden extended the Team Penske dominance at Iowa Speedway, winning the first race of a weekend doubleheader Saturday for his fourth victory at the shortest track on the IndyCar schedule.

Newgarden raced to his series-best fourth victory of the season and moved from fourth to second in the tight IndyCar championship fight. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson finished eighth and had his lead in the standings sliced to 15 points over Newgarden.

Newgarden had been 44 points out of the championship lead going into the race on the 0.894-mile oval and can make up even more ground when IndyCar completes its doubleheader Sunday.

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Team Penske drivers have won six of the last seven races at Iowa, which landed local grocer Hy-Vee as title sponsor of the doubleheader entertainment extravaganza that includes a pair of races and musical performances by Tim McGraw, Florida Georgia Line, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton.

Pato O’Ward finished second for Arrow McLaren SP and was followed by pole-sitter Will Power of Penske and Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing as Chevrolet took the top four spots. Earlier Saturday, Power won the pole for both races to move him one away from Mario Andretti’s record of 67.

Scott Dixon, who last week tied Andretti for second on the IndyCar win list with 52, finished fifth for Chip Ganassi Racing. Dixon was followed by six more Honda drivers, including Ganassi teammate Alex Palou and Romain Grosjean of Andretti Autosport.

Seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson overcame an early spin to weave his way into first the lead, and then a consistent spot inside the top five. He made several bold passes in the high lane, including a nail-biting three-wide pass to pick off two other drivers.

Earl Barban, Johnson’s longtime spotter, radioed that pass “is going to make a highlight reel” and the Ganassi crew asked Johnson if he was enjoying the 250 laps around Iowa in 100-degree temperatures.

“Yeah, this is a blast,” Johnson replied.

Alas, he faded to 11th in the closing sequence as only five drivers finished on the lead lap.

Newgarden, meanwhile, has led 1,358 of 2,250 laps in his last eight visits to Iowa. But even with his fourth win of the year, the championship battle still includes five drivers separated by 59 points with six races remaining.

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.