IndyCar: Iowa Speedway is Andretti Autosport’s house

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The 7/8-mile Iowa Speedway may belong to NASCAR now, but when it comes to the track’s Verizon IndyCar Series races, it’s clear who owns the joint.

Since the series started visiting Iowa in 2007, Andretti Autosport has been the dominant force at IndyCar’s shortest oval with five victories in those seven races.

Additionally, they’ll be looking for their fifth consecutive win at Iowa in Saturday night’s Iowa Corn Indy 300 (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Last year, the Andretti camp claimed a 1-2 finish on the bullring as James Hinchcliffe led 226 of 250 laps en route to victory over teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay. The Canadian joined Tony Kanaan (now with Chip Ganassi Racing; 2010), Marco Andretti (2011), and Hunter-Reay (2012) in contributing to the aforementioned streak of success.

And from an overall standpoint, the series’ two short ovals have been happy hunting grounds for the team lately. Between Iowa and the Milwaukee Mile, the team has earned four wins, seven podiums, and nine Top-5 finishes in the last two years alone.

This should all have Hunter-Reay anxious to re-assert himself in the championship after an 18th-place finish at Pocono knocked him to fifth in the standings, 58 points behind co-leaders Will Power and Helio Castroneves of Team Penske.

Iowa is also usually a strong track for Marco Andretti, who has four IndyCar podiums there. Championship-wise, he’s a ways back at 121 points behind Power and Castroneves in seventh place – but a win on Saturday night could grant contender status to the third-generation driver.

Then there’s Hinchcliffe, who has yet to hit the podium this season and has only been able to garner a pair of fifths (Belle Isle 2, Houston 1) as his best results in 2014. But after his dominant performance at Iowa one year ago, a repeat of that on Saturday could be the start of a second-half surge for him.

Finally, Munoz has collected two podiums in the last three races but will encounter Iowa for the first time in an IndyCar. He’s ran it twice in Indy Lights, however, with results of seventh in 2012 and eighth in 2013.

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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