Darren Keane Shows Strength for Team Benik
 May 13, 2017| 
  • Team News
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda staged Rounds 5 & 6 of the year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the weekend as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Grand Prix of Indianapolis weekend. The event kicks off the classic ‘Month of May’ as the motorsport world revs up for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 in two weeks.

In only his second USF2000 event, Keane once again showed strong pace behind the wheel of his No. 32 Team Benik entry.

After making his USF2000 debut three weeks ago at Barber Motorsports Park, the Florida-based driver aimed to build on what he had learned there for the Indianapolis doubleheader. And indeed he did, as Keane was immediately quick at the track – posting the sixth fastest lap time in the very first test session.

“It was a huge improvement from Barber,” said Keane. “I was sixth quick in the first session and then 10th in the second. Overall practice went really well because from the beginning, I felt a lot more comfortable and the car was a lot better.”

With two qualifying sessions on Friday to set the grid for Race One and Race Two, Keane had two opportunities to generate a quick time as he continued to learn what it takes to lay down the perfect lap in the USF2000 series.

“In the first qualifying session, I was eighth for most of the session but I kept missing the window for when the tires were in prime condition,” offered Keane. “It just took me a little too long to get into the groove, because by the time I was, the tires had gone off a bit. I did a much better job in the second qualifying session. I qualified ninth, just a tenth off of the fourth fastest time so I was pretty happy with it.”

Unfortunately, Keane wasn’t able to show his race potential in Race One on Friday after an incident on the first lap saw him not only have to pit for a new wing but also serve a drive through penalty for the contact.

“I messed up, it was my fault,” said Keane of the contact. “I took the wing off so I had to come in for a new one and then I had to do a drive-through. We had really good potential. When I was driving by myself in the second part of the race, my times were fast enough for seventh. So it could have been a lot better, but I took it as a learning experience and focused on having a better day on Saturday in Race Two.

Saturday’s race yielded a chaotic start as the 23-car USF2000 field funneled down into the tight section of Turns One and Two. When two cars got together ahead of Keane, he was forced to take avoidance and smartly went off track to avoid contact. Though able to keep going, Keane lost valuable track position after having started from the ninth position.

When the race went back to green, Keane restarted from deep in the field but quickly made his way forward to take 11th at the checkered flag – just two tenths shy of a top-10 result.

“The start today was pretty hectic, I think they went four-wide into Turn Two” said Keane. “Two cars spun ahead of me and I had to go right into the gravel and I kind of got stuck there for a few moments but I was able to keep going and luckily a full-course yellow came and I was able to catch back up to the field in time for the restart.”

As Keane reflected on the weekend and takes his lessons learned onto the next race event, the 17-year-old racer couldn’t help but reflect on racing at the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It is just amazing here,” said Keane. “It’s really, really cool. The only other road course inside an oval that I’ve been to is Homestead, and this place is just crazy. I can’t believe how big it is. I also think it’s really cool that it is right in the middle of the city. I was expecting a long road to get in here, but it’s literally right in the heart of Indianapolis which is really cool.”

Keane will next be in Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda action June 23-25 at Road America.
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