Kyle Busch had to withstand the maximum three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish before finally winning his seventh NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Fuel mileage became a major issue for drivers because of the G-W-C attempts, but Busch, who last pitted on Lap 119, was able to hang on and beat Brian Vickers by about half-a-second in the CNBC Prime’s “The Profit” 200 – a race that went 13 laps beyond its scheduled 200-lap distance.
“We pitted two laps after Brian, so I think that was part of it,” said Busch. “I think the other part of it too was Brian and the 3 [Austin Dillon] were running really, really hard trying to beat each other, obviously, and race really hard there.
“When I got out front with the two-second lead or whatever like that, I started rolling out of the gas early getting into the corners, not using a whole lot of brake and just kind of saving my tires, saving my brakes, saving the fuel and doing what I could to just be ready like [crew chief] Adam [Stevens] kept saying on the radio in case there is a green-white-checker to have something left to go race at the end.”
The first G-W-C attempt ended under caution as Landon Cassill ran out of fuel. That brought up G-W-C attempt No. 2, which also ended with a wreck involving Joey Logano, Parker Kligerman, and Paul Menard that triggered a short red flag period for cleanup.
Austin Dillon finished third to claim the $100,000 “Dash 4 Cash” bonus that was on the line between himself, Elliott Sadler, Kyle Larson and Sam Hornish Jr. Brian Scott and Michael Annett completed the Top 5.
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.