This past season, taking home the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship led Oliver Askew to the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. Now Keith Donegan will look to do the same in 2018, as he took home the prize earlier this month in the second annual shootout.
Recently, Popular Open Wheel’s Ashley McCubbin caught up with the 20-year-old to see what the scholarship means to his career moving forward.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What does it mean to you to win the MRTI Shootout?
KEITH DONEGAN: It means the world to me. My whole life has been changed over the last week or two from planning what I was going to do next year in Formula 4, to now where I am going to live in the US, and more. It’s a career path for me. I didn’t really expect – I didn’t even consider what would happen afterwards if I did win; I just went into the event focused on winning. Now it’s presented me the perfect opportunity to take me to the next level. I thank both Mazda, Dan Anderson and Cooper Tires for this opportunity for my career.
POW: Entering a rookie campaign in USF2000, what are your goals and expectations?
KD: I have one thing that I’ve always had – good people surrounding me, and obviously it’s about taking it step-by-step, doing the small things right. At the moment, we’re talking to teams – and that’s what I want to get first. I want to get with a good team that will want to work with me, and work with the car with me to get it the way I want it. If I get the elements all lined up, I do think that I can win the championship, but we’re just going to take it one race at a time.
POW: Obviously with the Mazda Road to Indy, the goal one day is be part of the Verizon IndyCar Series. If you could reach that level one day, what would that mean to you?
KD: It would be a dream come true. I’ve had my dream come true of winning the shootout, so I don’t see why this dream won’t come true either. But it would be everything. Racing in IndyCar – that’s the pinnacle of racing in the United States, as if you reached the top and accomplished a lot.
POW: How did you get your start in racing?
KD: I started racing go-karts when I was nine-years-old. I got a go-kart from Santa, when I knew Santa wasn’t real; I played along with it for a year so I could get a go-kart. My first race was when I was 10, and then I did four years in karts, and then two years of cars. Then I had to take a break for three and a half years because I was focusing on my university degree. This was my first year back, and the first time I sat back in the car was April of this year. My dad raced, all my uncles raced, and I’ve been at the tracks since I was two or three-years-old. Racecars have always been in the family, so it’s all I really know.
POW: What’s the most memorable moment of your career to date?
KD: The most memorable was probably a week ago, because the competition that was there was something that I haven’t experienced before with 17 champions from 12 countries and five continents; you don’t get that anywhere else. Other than that, probably the Formula 4 Festival when I went from sixth to second against some really good competition. That was probably a memorable moment, but they’ll probably be some more this year.
POW: Who would you consider your racing hero?
KD: When I was younger, I supposed I looked up to Ayrton Senna, and my dad. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved further away from that and having a hero, and focused on being myself, and my career. Obviously, I have a lot of drivers that I like to follow and like how they do things. Hopefully now a little kid can look back years from now and say that they want to be like me.
POW: What’s something interesting about you that may surprise fans?
KD: I supposed what’s interesting about me is that I finished second in the British Championship, and then gave it up for three and a half years, and then came back on the scene, picking up where I left off. This year, I had a good race craft, was prepared, and also worked on my own car. Not many drivers have done that, but I’m really interested in the technical side of cars and how they work. I do feel that’s an advantage, too.
EMAIL ASHLEY AT firstname.lastname@example.org
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.