It’s Major League Baseball’s opening day, and although the hubs of IndyCar and NASCAR are based in cities without MLB franchises (Indianapolis and Charlotte), that doesn’t mean there aren’t some key rooting interests.
Two fairly notable ones are IndyCar drivers JR Hildebrand (pictured) and Charlie Kimball, who are devout fans of two different teams in the NL West.
Hildebrand’s San Francisco Giants are coming off their second World Series triumph in the last three years… and open up today against Kimball’s Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Hell yeah it’s #OpeningDay and @SFGiants baseball is back, against those Dodgers no less. Only one thing left to say….. #BEATLA,” Hildebrand tweeted Monday.
A simpler tweet from Kimball read, “It’s time for @Dodgers baseball! #OpeningDay”
Kimball’s and Hildebrand’s opening days in IndyCar were less than satisfactory. Kimball finished 12th while Hildebrand made contact with Will Power under a caution flag, crashing out of the race at St. Petersburg.
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.