IndyCar: Pagenaud on top in wet GP of Indy third practice

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After threatening to break through as fastest driver on Thursday, Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports was able to complete the task in a damp, mixed condition third practice for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis Friday morning. Despite morning showers, the Verizon IndyCar Series and Friday schedule kicked off without delay.

The driver of the No. 77 Charter Communications/Oculus Honda clocked in at 1:23.1597, some 13 seconds slower than Thursday’s times in the dry.

Fellow Charter-sponsored driver Jack Hawksworth, in the No. 98 BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian that is also sporting another new sponsor this weekend, was second at 1:23.1732.

James Hinchcliffe, Will Power and Carlos Munoz completed the top five.

Power had an eventful session with a pair of spins, neither of which damaged the car. Meanwhile Mikhail Aleshin, one of Thursday’s practice stars, had a spin to end the session and another on-track moment around Sebastien Bourdais, his Barber nemesis, at exit to Turn 7 earlier in the session. Both went off course and recovered, with Bourdais coming out of Turn 14 ahead of the Russian rookie.

Ryan Briscoe also had a moment in Turn 4, and his off caused the first red flag of the 45-minute session.

Firestone Fast Six qualifying commences at 2 p.m. EDT.

Here’s your practice three times.

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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