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IndyCar: Sonoma championship update No. 2

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Alexander Rossi is charging hard toward the front of the field after benefiting from a Lap 44 caution – Graham Rahal pulled off on the back straight away after suffering a loss of power.

Rossi, who damaged the front wing of his No. 27 Napa Auto Parts Honda and cut a right-front tire after contact with his Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti after opening lap contact, had just pitted when the yellow came out for Rahal, and was able to stay on the lead lap.

As a result, he was able catch back up to the remainder of the field, and even pitted again under the yellow for a splash of a fuel and a set of the Firestone alternate reds.

Rossi restarted in 20th, but was immediately on the charge after a Lap 50 restart. He vaulted up to 15th, taking advantage of restart chaos that saw a mad scramble in the final corner.

By Lap 60, when Rossi pitted for the final time, Rossi had bulldozed his way up to seventh, making a slew of aggressive passes along the way.

With final stops complete and under 20 laps left, Rossi sits fifth. However, Scott Dixon still runs solidly in second to leader Ryan Hunter-Reay. Dixon has had a trouble-free day and leads Rossi by 49 points with less than 20 laps remaining.

Will Power and Josef Newgarden run third and eighth respectively, but with Spencer Pigot and Takuma Sato officially out, their title chances are all but gone.

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Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

IndyCar.com
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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.”