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IndyCar: Sonoma championship update

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The INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma has seen a wild shakeup in the championship picture in the opening laps.

Alexander Rossi suffered opening lap trouble in the form of contact with teammate Marco Andretti as they took the green flag – Rossi suffered front wing damage in the incident and headed to the pits for repairs.

Rossi sits 23rd in the running order as of writing. Of note: Takuma was an early retiree after suffering an engine failure on Lap 16.

Meanwhile, Josef Newgarden, who came into Sunday’s race 87 points behind Dixon and still with a mathematical chance at catching him, saw his already small title chances take a big blow as he stalled trying to exit the pits. Newgarden quickly got refired, but dropped to ninth in the running order.

Further, Sato’s engine failure means Newgarden’s title hopes, and those of teammate Will Power – he was also 87 points back of Dixon – are even slimmer than when the race began.

Dixon, meanwhile, runs solidly in second behind pole sitter and early race leader Ryan Hunter-Reay. Will Power sits fifth at the time of writing.

As it stands (on Lap 30), Dixon leads Rossi by 95 points as they run. Power is 110 points back in third, while Hunter-Reay has leapfrogged Newgarden and sits fourth in the standings as they run.

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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.”