With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.
Naturally, we’ll start at the top with now three-time champion Scott Dixon…
2013 SEASON PREVIEW
- Team: Target Chip Ganassi Racing
- 2012: 3rd Place, 2 Wins, 1 Pole
- 2013: Champion, 4 Wins, 2 Poles, 6 Podiums, 10 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 239 Laps Led, 9.6 Avg. Start, 8.1 Avg. Finish
DiZinno says: Determined, driven and at times dominant, Dixon delivered another championship on the stretch of a back-breaking second half of the season. He made the most of the bad days in the first half – notably at St. Pete – and of course coupled with the engine enhancements from Honda, setup gains from the ballyhooed midsummer Sebring test, and a resiliency to rebound after several gut punches made for a thrilling comeback. After a few years where luck didn’t go his way, and even with a few races where it didn’t this year either, Dixon promptly stepped up and earned the title in 2013.
Estrada says: Moral of the season: Never count Dixon out. After a late engine misfire doomed him to a 16th place finish at Iowa, he was 92 points behind Helio Castroneves at seventh in the championship. But then came Pocono, and armed with a newly updated Honda engine, Dixon began his charge back into contention with the first of three consecutive victories. Later on, he had his back-to-back disasters at Sonoma and Baltimore that left him 49 points behind Castroneves with three races to go. What does he do? He puts up a win, a second, and a fifth to overtake the Brazilian for the title in a brilliant display that defined the phrase “refuse to lose.”
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.