Kyle Busch overcomes penalty to win NNS at Phoenix

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Despite suffering a pit road speeding penalty in the early going, pole sitter Kyle Busch raced back up to the front and took the checkered flag in today’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix.

En route to his 52nd career NNS victory (tops all-time in NASCAR’s No. 2 series), “Rowdy” also became the NNS’ all-time lap leader on Saturday. His 142 laps led brings his grand total in the series to 11,135 circuits paced.

Busch was leading the way up to a caution for a Dexter Stacey spin on Lap 39, and was hit with the penalty one lap later. That knocked him back to 22nd on the subsequent restart, but Busch charged up the pylon until he re-took the point on Lap 89.

Busch went on to beat Brad Keselowski to the stripe by almost two seconds, with third place going to Justin Allgaier, and Trevor Bayne and Elliott Sadler rounding out the top five.

It was Busch’s first NNS victory since September of 2011 at Richmond’s 3/4-mile bullring.

“I was almost nervous, feeling like it was my first win, although it’s win No. 52 in the series,” he said. “It’s nice to be back.”

He’ll now shift his attention to Sunday’s main event for the Sprint Cup Series on the Phoenix mile. Busch was second-fastest in final Sprint Cup practice on Saturday afternoon and will start fourth for the Subway Fresh Fit 500k (Sun., 3 pm ET).

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne