(Stafford Springs, CT)—After a 3-race trial run at the end of the 2017 season, Enfield native Darrell Keane is ready to challenge for NAPA Rookie of the Year honors in Stafford Speedway’s Late Model division in 2018. Keane has an extensive background working with Bob Fill as well as helping the Botticello family at Stafford and he plans to put his knowledge to work in helping him get his #79 Botticello, Inc. Chevrolet ready for the 2018 season.
“I’ve worked for Bob Fill part time for around 15 years so I have some experience in car setup and have always been hands on with the cars,” said Keane. “I’ve also run Late Models at Monadnock and Claremont, so that experience should be a big help for me this year. We had a decent showing with the three races we ran at the end of last year and the equipment we have is top notch for the Late Models. I’m extremely excited and a little nervous on top of that to get started and I think this season is the earliest we’ve ever been done and ready to go. Instead of scrambling last minute on the car Thursday night before the Sizzler, we’ll be loading the car into the trailer.”
Keane made three starts at the end of the 2017 season and he recorded three sixth place finishes in each of his three starts. Keane also made 5 starts at the end of the 2014 season driving for Dennis Botticello. Despite Keane not recording a top-10 in those five starts and his relative lack of experience at Stafford, he feels like he has everything in place to live his dream and win a Late Model feature this season at Stafford.
“In 2014 I ran the last couple of races when Dennis [Botticello] hurt his back and I didn’t get close to sixth place like I had last year,” said Keane. “I have a few laps at Stafford and I’ve been going to Stafford since I was a kid. I’ve seen a lot of racing and my family has been coming to Stafford forever. I think my experience last year showed that we have a chance of winning a race this year. We definitely have the car, the crew, and the knowledge, it’s all going to come down to me as the driver. At the Fall Final last year, although we missed the setup a little, we thought we could have had a podium finish and shocked a few people. The biggest thing is it’s a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to having a lot of fun this season.”
If Keane is to win NAPA Rookie of the Year honors this season and the $1,000 NAPA Store credit that goes along with the award, he will face some stiff competition. Al and Cliff Saunders, who are both former track champions at Stafford, headline the 2018 Late Model rookie class with Richard Duranti, Eric Finkbein, Jr., and Jason Williams also registered rookie drivers.
“Rookie of the Year would be a huge accomplishment for me,” said Keane. “I’ve never won a rookie of the year award before and my highest finish in the points standings in any division has been third. The goal is to finish races and be able to put the car back into the trailer in one piece at the end of the night and to learn things as we go. I’ve been able to follow guys like Woody Pitkat and Tom Fearn at other tracks and I’ve learned from guys like them and Michael Bennett. They all know how to get around Stafford and hopefully we can be a thorn in their side this year. There were 8 different winners in the Late Model division last year and that’s a good thing to see. It would be a huge feat for me in my career to get a win this year. Patience is going to be the big thing for us and getting comfortable with the guys in the division. A lot of the guys don’t know me from a hole in the wall but from what I saw last year there was a lot of respect on the track and I was very impressed with that. It’s going to be a great season. Rookie of the Year is a nice goal to shoot for and thanks to NAPA for putting up the bonus of $1,000 in store credits.”
The 2018 Late Model season kicks off with this weekend’s 47th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler®. Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $40.00 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available. Tickets are good for both Saturday and Sunday admission. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Discount Tickets are now available at participating NAPA Auto Parts stores. For a full list of the 72 participating locations throughout Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont, please call the speedway office or point your web browser to www.staffordmotorspeedway.com/participating-napa-auto-parts-stores.
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.