NASCAR Notes: Blaney’s schedule; McClure for Daytona 500

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My MotorSportsTalk colleague Jerry Bonkowski will have more on Team Penske’s 2014 NASCAR announcements from Charlotte later today, but one of its pieces of news we’ll put here in this post.

Penske development driver Ryan Blaney will race up to 15 Nationwide Series events for the team, and will also make two Sprint Cup Series starts in the No. 12 SKF Ford. Blaney will race at Kansas in April and Talladega in October.

In other news…

Eric McClure will attempt to make the Daytona 500 with Front Row Motorsports, in the team’s No. 35 Hefty Ford.

McClure, who suffered a severe accident at Talladega in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race in 2012, previously attempted to qualify for the 2005 Daytona 500. He has three Sprint Cup Series starts, one apiece from 2004 through 2006.

The Nationwide Series veteran is also expected to return for a nearly full Nationwide schedule of 28 races, with 2000 series champion Jeff Green taking over in the other five.

McClure, 35, is expected to be one of several drivers in FRM’s No. 35, which ran full-time in 2013 with Josh Wise. The team’s two full-season efforts will be David Ragan (No. 34) and David Gilliland (No. 38), while the team hopes to find enough support for the No. 35 to run the majority of the races.

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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