Spirit of Daytona on pole for GRAND-AM Laguna Seca

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Going into today’s GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, five teams are within five points of each other in the battle for the Daytona Prototype class championship.

But one of the DP teams not involved in that battle will lead the field to the green flag this afternoon. The No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP, driven by Richard Westbrook and Ricky Taylor, took the top spot on the grid yesterday with a lap of 1 minute, 21.557 seconds around the famous California circuit.

The Westbrook/Ricky Taylor combo has had a trying 2013 with just one podium finish to their credit so far, a third at Barber Motorsports Park. Naturally, Spirit of Daytona is itching to have a strong result today.

“We’re not happy with the way this season has gone; it’s been really tough for everyone,” Westbrook told GRAND-AM.com. “I’m proud of the way the team has bounced back. [Today] is very important for us.”

Starting alongside the No. 90 will be the DP-class leading No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette of Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor. Angelelli narrowly missed out on pole by 21 one-thousandths of a second, but the No. 10 will still have a clear track ahead at the drop of the green.

As for the other DP title contenders, the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa will start fifth; the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing BMW/Riley of defending class champs Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett will start seventh; the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty will start eighth, and the No. 2 Starworks BMW/Riley of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel will start ninth.

A potential wild card is also in the mix at Laguna Seca, as two of Ganassi’s IndyCar drivers – Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti – will start fourth on the grid in a second CGR BMW/Riley, the No. 02.

The GT pole for today’s race went to the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro of John Edwards and Robin Liddell. Edwards threw down a lap of 1 minute, 27.529 seconds to take the honor over the No. 31 Marsh Racing Corvette of Eric Curran and Boris Said.

The Stevenson camp is part of the GT class’ own electric title fight. Alessandro Balzan currently holds a one-point edge over the Magnus Racing duo of John Potter and Andy Lally, while the Edwards/Liddell combo sits three points back.

17-year-old youngster Tristan Nunez took the GX class pole for the No. 00 Speedsource Mazda 6.

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.

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