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Alfonso Celis Jr. to get second career IndyCar start at Portland

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Juncos Racing announced Friday that Alfonso Celis Jr. will make his second career IndyCar start in the Grand Prix of Portland on Sept. 2 at Portland International Raceway.

The 21-year-old Celis Jr., a native of Mexico, will drive the No. 32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet for the second time, having previously raced on another permanent road course, central Wisconsin’s Road America on June 24, where he finished 20th.

“I’m very happy to be able to make my dream come true again and return to my second Indy car race,” Celis said in a media release. “This is a great way to continue building a project that I think has a lot of future and that I’m extremely excited about.”

Celis is one of three drivers who have driven the No. 32 this season, joining Kyle Kaiser and Rene Binder. The team has started 11 of the first 13 races this season, with a best finish of 16th (Kaiser at Long Beach, Binder at Barber).

The Portland race on the 1.968-mile permanent road course will be the second-to-last race on the 2018 IndyCar schedule, and brings Indy car racing back to the track – and the Pacific Northwest, for that matter – following an 11-year absence.

Celis has had a significant amount of racing experience in a very short period of time. In addition to two years as a test driver for Sahara Force India in Formula One, he finished third in the 2017 Formula V8 3.5 Series championship. He also drove for Juncos Racing in Indy Lights earlier this year at Barber Motorsports Park before getting the one-off IndyCar race ride at Road America.

“I’m very motivated about racing in Portland,” Celis added. “We have worked together on developing the setup of the car both on track and in the (racing simulator), and I feel very proud to be able to do all this work together with Juncos Racing.

“Before my debut in Road America, I had been out of the car for a while and it was also my first time in an Indy car, so this second time around should be even better. I’ve been training as hard as I can and I feel ready for this challenge.

“I’m very grateful with Juncos Racing for giving me this opportunity and putting their trust in me, and for all the people that have helped make this happen,” he said. “The Verizon IndyCar Series has the best racing and the best drivers in the world, and this is where I want to be.

“There has been huge following of the series in Mexico over the years and I want to do everything I can to help revive that love for the sport in my country.”

Added team owner Ricardo Juncos, “We had a great weekend overall with him back at Road America. His knowledge and feedback of the car provided our team with very valuable and important data. I am confident he will put on another great weekend and we look forward to getting him back in the car later this month.”

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Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”