The final five contestants left in the fight for the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout were so evenly matched that it took the six person judging panel almost two hours to determine a winner. (We’ll have a story on the extensive judging process later this week.)

After being announced as the five finalists Jake Craig, Keith Donegan, Olin Galli, Aaron Jeansonne, and Liam Lawson had only fifteen minutes to compose themselves before strapping back into one of the Bondurant School Formula Mazdas.

The final five Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout contestants wait intently for Mazda Motorsport’s Kyle Kimball to announce the winner (Photo Courtesy of Mazda Motorsports)

While no qualifying times were shared publicly, TSO Ladder can confirm that the final quintet were separated by the slimmest of margins.

An hour break followed the mock qualifying session, allowing the attentive Bondurant School crew the time necessary to get the cars turned around, while also giving the opportunity for the drivers to grab lunch.

The drivers were told the rules of the mock race, and also what the judges were looking for during a drivers meeting with Shootout Director Scot Elkins.

The car assignments for the 30 minute session were determined randomly, and the drivers were sent out on track in ten second intervals, with the driver drawing the lowest car number going first. The Bondurant School track at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park is designed to train drivers in each kind of corner (off camber, late apex, double apex, etc.) that they will experience at other race tracks, but unfortunately does not have an safe passing zone for a shootout, so on track passing was not allowed.

However, drivers were able to move forward. If a driver was caught by a trailing driver, they were shown the blue flag, and had to immediately pull over and let his competitor by.

The drivers were informed before the mock race that one of the big points of emphasis for the judges would be watching for was consistent race pace, so passing really wouldn’t be your primary goal. Putting together a long run of mistake free laps was what the judges were watching for.

TSO Ladder had full access to the lap times throughout the half-hour race (no we won’t share), but we can confirm that the average race pace was VERY close, making the judges job extra tough.

Winner Donegan, who we’ll have more on later, is a 20 year-old who returned to racing this season after taking a four year break to concentrate on his academic studies. The Dublin, Ireland native built and ran a Formula Ford with his dad this year, and won his ticket to the shootout by finishing second in the prestigious Formula Ford Festival just a few short weeks ago.

Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout winner Keith Donegan celebrates with his family and supporters (Photo Courtesy of Mazda Motorsports)

We’ll be back with much more tomorrow and later this week.