Canadians Hinchcliffe, Tagliani seek the big result in Toronto

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For the two Canadians in this year’s Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader, there’s been some success but not the ultimate result in front of their home fans.

Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Quebec, has a fairly respectable record in CART, Champ Car and now the IZOD IndyCar Series around Exhibition Place. He has two podiums (second in 2001, third in 2005) and nine top-10 finishes in 12 prior Toronto starts.

James Hinchcliffe, of Oakville, Ontario, meanwhile has been snake bit in his two prior Toronto starts. He ended just 14th in his rookie start in 2011 and retired early with engine issues last year.

Both have the built in, added pressure that comes with racing in their home country. Tagliani more than “Hinch” could use a decent result, although the way Hinchcliffe’s bipolar season has gone you may as well pencil him in for at least one win.

Since a 10th-place finish in the season opener at St. Petersburg, a race Hinchcliffe won, Tagliani has yet to make it back to the top 10 in the No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda – albeit not for a lack of effort. A myriad of bad luck has plagued his season and Tagliani enters just 22nd in the points standings.

Meanwhile, Hinchcliffe has alternated between winning and last place on several occasions in the No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport. He is the only three-time winner in 2013, but that’s been negatively countered by a 24th and two 26th place finishes. He’s fifth in points, and a podium or win would send the crowd wild.

Either way, with two races, there’s a chance both of the locals could have their day on top this weekend.

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