A surprise switch made Ken Roczen an underdog, but an unlikely team, and Ken himself, made it back to the top
WORDS: JASON WEIGANDT
PHOTOS: ALIGN MEDIA
“After his second lap on this bike, Ken pulled over, looked at me and said, ‘I can win on this bike,’” says Travis Soules. Soules is now Roczen’s mechanic with Progressive Insurance/Ectsar Suzuki, and he was also a mechanic with Roczen’s previous Suzuki team, back in 2016 with Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s RCH Suzuki. This isn’t the same situation, though. The RCH team featured superstar owners, factory Suzuki parts, and a motorcycle approved by some of the best riders ever.
Roczen’s new team is owned by a former journeyman privateer, and Suzuki no longer operates a works division. Symbolically, maybe even infamously, the RM-Z450 is the only bike left still packing a kickstarter, in the age of electric start. Yet none of these obstacles shook Roczen’s confidence.
“Before Anaheim 1, Kenny told me to have a kickstarter ready, so he could show it off when we made the podium,” offers Soules, showing Roczen’s confidence in this new program.
It took a ton of work to get there, but when Roczen did win eight rounds later in Indianapolis, Soules reached into his backpack, found the kickstarter, and handed it over. Kenny and his kickstarter were headed to the center of the podium.
Ken Roczen’s whirlwind free agency last fall ended with him on an unlikely team in Progressive Insurance/Ecstar Suzuki, which was introduced at the press conference of the Anaheim season-opener. With the experienced Larry Brooks (second inset from left) as team manager, and former racer Dustin Pipes Ken Roczen Former racer Dustin Pipes (far right) as team owner, Roczen has found himself in a more laidback atmosphere than what he’s previously experienced, which has been a welcome change
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