Brad Keselowski tops final Cup practice at Texas

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Coming off a Top-5 finish last weekend at Martinsville, Brad Keselowski topped today’s final practice session for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway with a lap of 189.440 miles per hour – just ahead of Chase for the Sprint Cup co-leader Matt Kenseth.

Kenseth (189.434 mph) had an altogether smoother “Happy Hour” than Jimmie Johnson, with whom he shares the championship lead going into Sunday’s pivotal race.

Johnson managed to turn in the 16th-quickest time (186.722 mph) after having to deal with a tire rub and then an issue with the accelerator on his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Paul Menard (189.168 mph) was third-quickest in final practice, followed by Texas spring winner Kyle Busch in fourth (188.937 mph) and Martin Truex Jr. (188.818 mph) in fifth. Truex was very strong at Texas back in April but lost the lead late to eventual winner Busch off the final round of pit stops.

In terms of best consecutive 10-lap averages, Kenseth was at the top as his first 10 laps of final practice averaged around 185.323 mph. Keselowski had the second-best average, followed by those of Johnson, Truex, and Kasey Kahne.

Earlier in the first Saturday practice run, Clint Bowyer led the way with a lap of 188.422 miles per hour. Busch, Keselowski, Truex, and Biffle completed the Top-5 in that particular session.

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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