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MRTI: Nine nations represented in Road to Indy shootout finalists

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The second annual Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout will feature 17 different drivers from nine different countries, all of whom vying for an entry into next season’s USF2000 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda campaign. Scheduled for December 9-10, the shootout will be held at the Bondurant Racing School.

The full release, including a full list of participants, is below.

 

A young racer’s life will be changed this coming weekend as 17 drivers representing nine nations and four different continents vie for superiority in the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout. The second annual event will take place at the Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz., just outside of Phoenix.
A Mazda Scholarship valued at $200,000 is on offer to ensure entry into the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, in 2018. USF2000 is the first rung of the proven and highly acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder which provides Mazda Scholarships at every level to allow talented young drivers to progress all the way from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.
Last year’s inaugural Mazda Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout was won by Florida teenager Oliver Askew, who went on to claim this year’s USF2000 championship title with Cape Motorsports and secure a second Mazda Scholarship which will allow him to graduate onto the next step of the ladder, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in 2018.
In total, 20 championships were offered Shootout “entry tickets” to award their champions, with an eligibility requirement that drivers be between the ages of 14 and 25 on September 30, 2017. Two drivers earning tickets are unable to attend – Konrad Czaczyk (Formula Tour 1600 Canada) and Luke Wiliams (BRSCC F1600 England). The 17 contestants, listed below with their age, hometown and affiliation, have earned their opportunity to chase one of the most coveted prizes in all of junior open-wheel racing via a worldwide network of official feeder series:
Spencer Brockman, 17, Westport, Conn. – SCCA Formula Atlantic (At-Large Entry determined by Mazda)
Manuel Cabrera, 17, Mexico City, City – Formula Panam (Mexico)
Matthew Cowley, 20, Manchester, England – F1600 Formula F Championship Series
Jake Craig, 20, Mission Viejo, Calif. – At-Large Entry determined by eKartingNews.com
Keith Donegan, 20, Dublin, Ireland – Formula Ford Festival (UK)
Mitch Egner, 25, Victoria, B.C., Canada – Pacific F2000 Championship
Elliot Finlayson, 21, Yorkville, Ill. – SCCA National Championship Runoffs (Formula Enterprises)
Olin Galli, 21, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Selectiva de Kart Petrobras (Brazil)
Aaron Jeansonne, 19, Sulphur, La. – Team USA Scholarship
Jonathan Kotyk, 23, Atlantic Beach, Fla. – Team USA Scholarship
Liam Lawson, 15, Pukekohe, New Zealand -– New Zealand Formula Ford Championship
Ross Martin, 16, Kilmarnock, Scotland – Beatson’s Scottish FF1600 Championship
Niall Murray, 22, Dublin, Ireland – Dawson WAM Northern Ireland Formula Ford 1600 Championship
Jamie Thorburn, 19, Duns, Scotland – Formula Ford 1600 SuperSeries (UK)
Max Vidau, 16, Adelaide, Australia – Australian Formula Ford Championship
Carter Williams, 19, Clovis, Calif. – Formula Car Challenge Presented by Goodyear
Oliver White, 25, Bath, England – Walter Hayes Trophy for Formula Ford 1600 (UK)
The shootout will take place over two days, December 9-10, at the full 1.6-mile road course at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park (formerly known as Firebird International Raceway) in Chandler, Ariz. Drivers will compete in a fleet of identically prepared Formula Mazda cars fitted with Cooper tires.
An exhaustive assessment of all 17 drivers will be undertaken by an accomplished panel of judges comprising former IndyCar driver Scott Goodyear, factory Mazda representatives Jonathan Bomarito, Andrew Carbonell and Tom Long, plus inaugural shootout winner Askew and 2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni.
“Oliver Askew is proof of what this event can provide,” said Kyle Kimball, manager of operations for Mazda Motorsports. “He won the Shootout and then went on to win another Mazda Scholarship as the USF2000 champion. The Shootout brings the most talented drivers from around the globe to find who will become the next Mazda scholarship winner, and we can’t wait to see which of these young drivers will prevail.”
The winner of the Shootout will be announced at the conclusion of on-track activities and judging deliberations.
“This year presents another outstanding driver line up for the Shootout,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “All of these drivers have impressed with their talent, and the judges are going to have a difficult decision to make on Sunday.
“This event is very special. It is tremendous to see rising stars from around the world come together, and I have to thank Mazda for its commitment to the next generation of racers.”

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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