Strong Debut Performance for Darren Keane
 April 25, 2017| 
  • Team News
LEEDS, Ala. – No matter how much you study, you never know if it was enough until you actually take the test. For young Darren Keane, this weekend provided his first taste of Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda action, and it is fair to say that the youngster passed the test with flying colors. 

With two races on tap for his debut weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, Keane continued to make progress as he acclimated to the new form of racing and learned the intricacies of both the track and the car.

Friday’s race saw Keane start from 24th position and work his way up to 16th in the 30-minute sprint as he did battle around the tight confines of the 2.3-mile, 17-turn natural terrain road course.

Building on what he learned from Friday, Keane put his No. 32 Benik entry 19th on the grid for Saturday’s second race of the weekend. The start was a bit chaotic with several cars coming together ahead of Keane. But the karting veteran used his karting experience to avoid the cars ahead.

“The first few corners were a little hairy but I just watched everything happen and focused on moving forward,” said Keane. “It was fine. Karting races are very chaotic so I just stayed calm and worked my way around. I'm not that aggressive on the rolling starts yet because I've only done two so far so I was just chilling out and watched the crash happen and then picked my points and it was fine.”

Once the incident was cleared, the race when back to green and Keane made quick work of moving forward as the time on the race clock dwindled down. As the 30-minute race entered its final stages, Keane was battling for a top-10 finish and he wasn’t going to give up a top-10 result without a fight.

The final lap saw him dicing it up as he defended the 10th place spot, but keeping the end goal in mind, Keane drove a clean and smart race to take 11th at the checkered flag.

“The restart was pretty good - I was right on the car in front of me,” said Keane. “I passed him within a lap. There was a bit of a gap to the two cars in front of me. I caught up to them but once I got to them I didn't have a good enough run to make a maneuver. The driver behind me was really fast and we had a little bit of a battle for the last few laps - it was all good. I am really happy. My goal was to get a top-10 or top-12 and I got 11th so I'll build on it for the next one at Indy.”

Without having run at the track previously, Keane and his Benik team started a bit on the back foot, but Keane was pleased with the squad’s progress throughout the weekend.

“I am a lot more comfortable racing these cars now - especially with the aero,” offered Keane. “This is my first time having really close racing and I had some really close moves - even with wheels touching. I'm a lot more comfortable with the car now. Hopefully we can get a baseline to start the weekend off better at the next one. We were playing catch up for a lot of the weekend because many of the other teams had been here already, but I'm very happy with the result.”

Keane looks to continue to build on what he learned at Barber Motorsports Park and bring that to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 11-13 when the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda takes to the road course of the iconic venue.
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