St. Petersburg, Fla (11 March 2018) – Racing in his home state, Darren Keane started the 2018 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda season on the right foot by scoring his first podium result with his No. 36 Newman Wachs USF2000 machine on Saturday at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The 1.8-mile temporary road course played host for the first two rounds of the 14 race USF2000 season.
The young racer’s hard work during the off-season paid off this weekend as Keane proved to have the pace to run at the front of the large field of 25 USF2000 drivers. Keane only had one practice session to get the baseline for the car’s setup before the first qualifying run on Friday morning where he qualified eighth and 15th for Race 1 and Race 2 respectively.
Without skipping a beat, Keane raced right into a rhythm at the start of Race 1 as he quickly befriended the narrow nature of the road course. After patiently sitting just outside of podium contention, Keane took advantage when the moment came to move himself up into third.
Holding his own and fending off the rest of the field, Keane ultimately crossed the line third in just his seventh career USF2000 event to claim his debut USF2000 podium.
“This race was great because I showed that I have the pace to stay in the front,” said Keane. “I dealt with a few issues but I was able to hold it together in the end. With such a narrow track there isn’t much room for error. You just have to show that you are committed and go for it or else it can end up badly.”
Race 2 was a different battle for the large field of drivers as the race would be held at the opposite end of the day, making it the first afternoon event of the weekend for Keane. With different grip levels and track conditions, Keane and his Newman Wachs team looked to make the appropriate adjustments to cater to the changed track conditions.
Starting from the middle of the pack, Keane nabbed one position on the start and charged towards the pack of cars in front. Despite fighting understeer, Keane continued to lay down fast laps that were within tenths of the leaders. With only two full course cautions, opportunities were limited to gain ground and Keane had to settle with a 12th place result.
“The weekend over all went really well and we were able to score my first podium,” said Keane. “This (second) race I just had trouble with understeer and getting the car handled properly. We are going to go back and do some work to get the car hooked back up for the next race. For now I will keep training and come back ready for the next event in Indy.”
Keane will return to the seat of the No. 36 Newman Wachs machine on May 10th for the Indianapolis GP.