Mazda Road to Indy
ASHLEY ASKS……Darren Keane
Last month when the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda drivers took to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it was Darren Keane topping the time sheet with the quickest lap of the weekend.
Recently, Popular Open Wheel’s Ashley McCubbin caught up with Keane to get his thoughts on the test and more.
POPULAR OPEN WHEEL: What are your thoughts on the recent test at Indianapolis?
DARREN KEANE: I think it was really good. The main thing was that we were super consistent throughout the eight test sessions. I was never outside of the top-four – was second four or five times, third once, and then first twice. So it was really good. Obviously, I’m really happy about coming away with the best time of the weekend. It’s a good confidence booster for me because during the year, I was fast at times and then the track conditions changed and I wasn’t the same, so it was kind of weird for me to be fast one session, struggling the next in regards to confidence if I was doing anything wrong.
But I was really happy with how the test went. All the Newman Wachs guys did a great job, and I think we improved a lot together over the last season. So I’m really looking forward to 2018 with them. I just signed up with them full-time for next year this week, so it’s all really good.
POW: As you mentioned, it was just announced you’ll be back with NWR for 2018. What does it mean for you to return to the series next year?
DK: I’m really happy to be on the Mazda Road to Indy, first of all; it’s an amazing program. The ladder system is really, really great. I think the biggest part about signing with Newman Wachs is they’re a great team first of all, but we have so much time to prepare and put together a test plan, and get everything we want done before the season starts. One of the struggles I had last year was it was thrown together last minute, because I broke my ribs at the start of the season so we didn’t plan on doing any racing. But I’m just really happy that we’re preparing early, and doing all the right things that we can do to try and get a good result next year.
POW: What are your thoughts looking back on 2017?
DK: I think we did what we set out to do, which was to learn as much as I could, because I didn’t have much experience in a racecar at the start of last year. I did some F4 racing the year before, but a couple things didn’t work out so it wasn’t such a great learning experience for me. So it was kind of like starting from scratch at Barber, and I thought it was going to be a bit better than it started off as, but I’m really happy with how much I learned.
Before the Chris Griffis test, I was looking back at the video from the Indy GP and seeing the things that I was doing, and it was crazy how much I learned since then as far as track position and all that. Our plan was to do last year learn, this year time to win the championship, so I think we are in a position to do that. I think last year was a good success looking back.
POW: Where do you feel you could’ve been even better?
DK: Right now, it’s hard to tell because the first thing is obviously speed, and we showed that throughout the Indy test, so that’s good. But I think we really need to focus on when the track is changing, because that’s something that caught us out last year, which is why we were a little inconsistent. If we can manage the changing track conditions when IndyCar goes out and puts rubber down, I think we’ll be really good.
POW: What track are you most looking forward to getting to?
DK: Road America is probably my favorite road course, and it’s a really cool place. I really enjoy driving there this year in the summer. Then Toronto is definitely one of my favorites. I think it’s just really cool. I haven’t raced at St. Pete, but I think Toronto is like a really cool street course, and the city is really cool. You can see the CN Tower from the track, and the arch at turn one (Princess Gates). It’s all pretty cool, and the Toronto FC is right there so there’s a lot of really landmarks around the track.
Keane will kick off his second USF2000 season on the streets of St. Petersburg on March 10.
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