Milestone 450SX win halfway into the 2023 Supercross season.
Progressive Insurance Ecstar Suzuki team owner Dustin Pipes has recalled the road to achieving race-winning success with Ken Roczen and capturing an elusive first Monster Energy Supercross victory in Indianapolis on Saturday night.
Longtime privateer racer Pipes hung up his helmet at the close of the 2018 season to focus on operating his HEP Motorsports organization, continuing with RM-Z machinery post-retirement.
The addition of Roczen for 2023 was instrumental in gaining increased Suzuki support and, now, nine rounds into the 450SX championship the pair have delivered on their promise to compete for wins at the highest level of the sport with a historic result in Indy.
“Man, it’s a big one,” Pipes explained. “We started this team six years ago and to think you’re going to be here with an iconic rider like Ken Roczen, it’s like who would’ve thought, right? Six years, what a ride! There’s so many people that just breathe and work so hard to make this possible that won’t get the recognition, because they’re not in front of the camera. There’s so many, all the truck drivers, all the mechanics, filmers, suspension and motor guys, there’s been so many good people that have influenced how this team was built, it’s just surreal.
“Now the real work starts, unfortunately… now there’s expectations, so we’re super happy, but now the mechanics have to come back tomorrow and frame bikes and we have to do our best next week. So as much as we’re going to enjoy this night, I think we’re all focused on Detroit.”
Roczen made a high-profile return to Suzuki in the pre-season at the 11th-hour after departing Team Honda HRC and testing an assortment of bikes, which marked a significant milestone in Pipes establishing HEP as a top-level team in both Supercross and the upcoming Pro Motocross series.
“When we started building this team, we didn’t want to just too far too quick,” continued Pipes. “There’s so many teams that have poured everything into one or two years, so for us it was really a slow build and we took calculated risks that we could manage. That’s kind of what these past six years have been, weighing up the risks and figuring out how we can take those next steps.
“We actually spoke to Ken’s agent halfway through Supercross and I didn’t think there was any chance we were going to sign him midway through 2022 and then things unfolded. Ken didn’t have a ride, we had a slot open, we did some overseas stuff, he still didn’t have a ride. I literally just called him on a Monday and asked if he wanted to come ride the bike and see – he came and we had such a great day that first day testing.”
Now, with Roczen currently positioned fifth in points and landing on the podium with third at Anaheim 2 and P1 in Indianapolis, the team is firmly focused on building strength in the second half of the 2023 season.
“The bikes work really well at the practice tracks and we know how to tune them, but you come here and it’s like ‘oh shit, there’s 22 other fast guys and it’s really gnarly’,” he added. “It’s another step and we’ve never had a guy like Ken, there’s a lot of expectation from him and there should be, cause he’s a guy that’s capable of winning races. So, for us, trying to figure out how to take those steps.
“It was never a question of if Ken was the right fit or if Ken was a good guy, it was a question of if we’re ready to do this. We just jumped in head first and Ken had a lot of faith in us. He’s worked his butt off, it’s crazy to me, you get this outside persona – I didn’t know Ken very well, I didn’t know his family very well, like you hear things that just aren’t true.
“He’s just such a good dude to work with, he’s so likeable, and I’m just fortunate to be in this position and to be the one behind this camp overseeing it all. Like, my family does all of this – it’s sick. There’s so many people that have put so much into this team, it’s just awesome.”
Pipes operates both the Progressive Insurance Ecstar Suzuki program that houses Red Bull-backed Roczen alongside 250 team riders Dilan Schwartz and Marshal Weltin, as well as the Twisted Tea Suzuki 450 team line-up of Shane McElrath and Kyle Chisholm. He also heads the Pipes Motorsport Group (PMG) effort in World Supercross.