Allmendinger back for Penske at Fontana (UPDATED)

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AJ Allmendinger will race for Team Penske in the IZOD IndyCar Series finale – and with sponsor IZOD, which had backed him earlier this year.

“I’m looking forward to racing the IZOD Chevy in the IndyCar season finale,” Allmendinger said in a team statement. “It’s always a great opportunity to compete for Team Penske and I had great time and a solid result racing the IZOD car in the last 500-mile race back in May at the Indianapolis 500. Hopefully, we can close out the season with another good finish for Team Penske and for Chevrolet.”

The ‘Dinger, who has made five prior starts this year (Barber, Long Beach, Indianapolis, Detroit doubleheader), will put his Penske Racing winning streak on the line in the No. 2 IZOD Chevrolet as a third entry alongside Helio Castroneves and Will Power.

Shell confirmed the move via its Twitter page: “Looking forward to seeing @AJDinger back in the No. 2 @penskeracing #IndyCar at @ACSupdates !!” as did Penske Racing president Tim Cindric: “@AJDinger are you ready to put your @penskeracing winning streak on the line @ACSupdates ??”

Castroneves lost his points lead in Houston and now trails Scott Dixon by 25 points entering the MAVTV 500 on October 19 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

Allmendinger starred in his Indianapolis 500 debut, leading 23 laps and finishing seventh. But his most recent IndyCar outing was a disaster in Detroit, with two first-lap crashes on back-to-back days. Adding insult to injury, he was driving a car sponsored by Quicken Loans in a race where that was also promoted by Penske, and sponsored by Quicken Loans.

But he’s redeemed himself with wins in his last two starts for Penske in the NASCAR Nationwide ranks. He won at Road America in June and Mid-Ohio in August.

Now, he’ll play gunner to Castroneves and Power for 500 miles on October 19.

UPDATED: Allmendinger’s sponsor will be IZOD, not Shell/Pennzoil as originally stated.

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