Sonoma Raceway gives fans a chance to attend NASCAR drivers’ meeting

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Even though it’s nothing more than a procedural meeting to go over rules, boundaries, etc., driver meetings have long been magnets for fans wanting to learn about what goes on in them.

Well, if you buy a ticket to the upcoming Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on June 22, “for the first time ever in Sonoma … select fans will granted access to the NASCAR drivers’ meeting” (that’s how the track is putting it).

It’s a rare opportunity for fans – the track isn’t saying how many fans will take part in the meeting – to get up close and personal with drivers, crew chiefs, team owners and NASCAR officials as they spell out the lay of the land, so to speak, for that day’s race on the twisting Sonoma road course.

The only caveat is tickets must be purchased prior to May 31 for fans to gain eligibility.

To accommodate the number of fans who will attend the meeting, it’s usual venue within the Sprint Cup garage area will be shifted to the track’s infield – inside the hairpin at Turn 11.

“This is an incredible opportunity for our guests to go behind the curtain on race day and be part of the action,” said Steve Page, president and general manager of Sonoma Raceway. “We are grateful to NASCAR for arranging this special access to Sonoma’s race fans.”

More information will be posted to the track’s website in the coming days and weeks leading up to the race.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

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