In this morning’s drivers’ meeting at Chicagoland Speedway, NASCAR announced a potentially significant change to its restart procedure that takes effect today in the Chase-opening GEICO 400.
The restart zones will still be in effect, and the race leader will have the responsibility to accelerate within the zone to bring out the green flag. When the green emerges, the leader must be ahead of the second-place car.
However, once the leader accelerates at the green, the second-place car can also accelerate and beat the leader to the start/finish line. Additionally, drivers must stay in their specific lanes until they reach said line.
Restarts have been a recurring issue this season, and they were such again last weekend at Richmond International Raceway. While it was buried by the controversy surrounding Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip Racing, the final restart of last Saturday’s Sprint Cup race saw second-place Carl Edwards beat race leader Paul Menard to the start/finish line and then go on to win.
Edwards maintained that Menard had spun his tires, and NASCAR opted not to penalize Edwards, who is one of the 13 Chase contenders set to begin their drive toward a Sprint Cup championship this afternoon at Chicagoland.
One day before, the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at RIR also ended with a restart controversy. Television replays appeared to show Brad Keselowski moving ahead of Brian Scott before the two crossed into the restart zone with six laps remaining in the event. But NASCAR did not penalize Keselowski, who then pulled away for the victory.
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.