NBCSN IndyCar updates: Sonoma most-watched of 2013, plus Baltimore times

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The GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma was NBCSN’s most-watched IndyCar race of 2013, with a 27 percent increase in viewership over 2012. Media reporter John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal said that number was 391,000 viewers.

This weekend, the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT will be live on NBCSN Sunday at 2 p.m. EST. Qualifying airs Saturday at 6 p.m. EST, and the Firestone Indy Lights race will air after the IndyCar race on Sunday at 5 p.m. EST.

Will Power (Penske) earned his first win of the 2013 season last weekend at the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, and will look to continue that success at Baltimore where he took the checkered flag in 2011. Helio Castroneves (Penske) maintains his lead in the IZOD IndyCar Series Points Standings over Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi), who was poised to gain ground at the Grand Prix of Sonoma, but finished 15th after a pit safety infraction late in the race. Ryan Hunter-Reay(Andretti) currently sits third in the IZOD IndyCar Series Points Standings and won at Baltimore last year.

NBC Sports Group’s IndyCar play-by-play voice Leigh Diffey will call the Grand Prix of Baltimore. Diffey will be joined in the booth this week by former drivers Townsend Bell and Wally Dallenbach. Reporters Jon Beekhuis, Kevin Lee, Marty Snider and Robin Miller will manage the pits.

I’ll be on the ground for MotorSportsTalk once again, for my ninth of 14 IndyCar weekends (including the Detroit and Toronto doubleheaders) this season.

The full release of the more than 15 hours of motorsports coverage on NBCSN this weekend can be found from the NBC Sports Group Press Box website, linked here. Times are below:

Date Coverage Network Time (ET)
Thur., August 29 Auctions America NBCSN 8 p.m.
Fri., August 30 ARCA Herr’s Live Life With Flavor 200 NBCSN 12 a.m.
Auctions America NBCSN 8 p.m.
Sat., August 31 Auctions America NBCSN 12:30 p.m.
Grand Prix of Baltimore – Qualifying NBCSN 6 p.m.
Sun., September 1 Grand Prix of Baltimore NBCSN 2 p.m.
Firestone Indy Lights Baltimore NBCSN 5 p.m.

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