For the third straight year, it was a driver from the Cape Motorsports stable that led final tune-up before the season-opening Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship race of the season.

Darren Keane, from nearby Boca Raton, Fla. turned the quickest lap of the test in the third session at 84.5314 seconds. In 2017 it was eventual series champion Oliver Askew, and in 2018 it was 12 race winner Kyle Kirkwood that led the first official test of the season for Cape Motorsports.

Darren Keane wheeling the No. 2 USF-17 from the Cape Motorsports to the quickest time in testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

“This was an important test for us, with all the other cars out there,” said Keane. “We wanted to make an impression this weekend, knowing that it would stick with us and set a tone for the season – and I think we did that. I feel more confident in general now, especially given all the resources the team has. We trust each other a lot, and we’re super confident in each other’s ability. We’re going into St. Pete with a clear mind, and we know what we have to do.”

That doesn’t tell the complete story of a very competitive test that had four different drivers from three different teams lead one of the five sessions. DEForce Racing rookie Manuel Sulaiman was a slim five-hundredths of a second behind Keane, and the Mexican driver was the only pilot to lead more than one session.

“We knew it was going to be a bit difficult, but we were prepared for this,” explained Sulaiman to TSO Ladder. “Not knowing this track was a big challenge and we managed it quite well. The team worked really, really well, I did a good job, and that gave us a good result”.

At the end of the two-day test, six drivers were within a half-second of Keane’s best lap including Miller Vinatieri Motorsports rookie Eduardo Barrichello. The Brazilian ended the first day with the 15th quickest time but rebounded on the second day to lead the final session.

“I think it’s pretty positive to start like that,” explained the 17-year old. “Yesterday we were second last with old tires. I didn’t know what to expect. This is my first time here. I’ve never driven here. It’s my third or fourth time in the car, and I’m still learning it. Yesterday, I was two seconds off, and today I finished the last session in P1, so I think it’s pretty positive. The team and I worked really hard through the night to get some stuff covered.”

3rd session notes

The third USF2000 session of the test and first of the day began under slightly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid-70s.

Darren Keane, Manuel Sulaiman, Christian Rasmussen, and Braden Eves all led the 45-minute session at some point, but it was Keane’s 17th of 19 laps, timed at 84.5314 seconds that ended up as the quickest of the session, day and test.

The coolest session of the test yielded the quickest lap of the test for 11 of the 18 drivers.

In the session, the top six times were within a half of a second of Keane and 13 of 17 were within one second.

Drivers from seven different teams set the top seven times.

The 17 drivers that took part (Jay Howard Driver Development’s Christian Bogle had a previous commitment) turned a total of 326 laps with rookie Eduardo Barrichello turning the most laps at 25.

The red flag came out with seven minutes remaining in the session when Exclusive Autosport’s Manuel Cabrera brushed the wall. The No. 90 USF-17 only sustained damage to the wheels and was back on track for the next session.

The green flag came back out with four minutes remaining.

4th session notes

Cone vs. driver vs. race control is the title of the fourth act of testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Manuel Sulaiman led his second session of the test as 15 drivers completed 252 laps of the 2.1 mile, Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was also the second session that saw the top five lap times represented by five different teams.

Manuel Sulaiman, a veteran of two seasons of British F4 competition, led two session in the first official test of the 2019 USF2000 season with DEForce Racing (Photo Courtesy Of Andersen Promotions)

However, the story of the session was a series of drive-thru penalties and a red flag for a time-out.

During Saturday morning’s driver meeting, a point of emphasis was not hitting the cones as the drivers came off the road course onto the front straight because it could damage the cars and track. However, getting a wider exit onto the front straight, dramatically improved lap times.

The cone was hit and replaced multiple times, and each time it was pushed out of the way, the race car drivers being race car drivers utilized the quickest way around the track.

After a few dozen drive-thru penalties for track limits, race control decided to bring the session to a stop to let the drivers know that their actions would not be tolerated.

5th session notes

The final 45-minute session had the entire Pabst Racing team sit out because the team had decided they had learned all they could learn from a track that doesn’t mimic any that they will race at this season.

The session was led by a rookie driver for a first-year team. Miller Vinatieri Motorsports Eduardo Barrichello was the only driver to go under 85 second during the warmest session of the test.

The 18 drivers completed 2,641.8 miles which equates to 1,258 laps.

USF2000 Homestead-Miami Speedway testing combined time sheet from all sessions

1 2 Darren Keane Cape Motorsports 1:24.531 –.—- 67
2 12 Manual Sulaiman DEForce Racing 1:24.584 0.053 76
3 8 Braden Eves Cape Motorsports 1:24.657 0.126 77
4 6 Christian Rasmussen Jay Howard Driver Development 1:24.800 0.269 64
5 41 Eduardo Barrichello Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:24.865 0.334 101
6 73 Cameron Shields Newman Wachs Racing 1:24.931 0.400 95
7 21 Yuven Sundaramoorthy Pabst Racing 1:25.174 0.643 55
8 3 Reece Gold Cape Motorsports 1:25.191 0.660 77
9 40 Jack William Miller Miller Vinatieri Motorsports 1:25.194 0.663 102
10 5 Matt Round-Garrido Jay Howard Driver Development 1:25.199 0.668 61
11 22 Hunter McElrea Pabst Racing 1:25.339 0.808 30
12 24 Bruna Tomaselli Pabst Racing 1:25.385 0.854 56
13 28 Anthony Famularo BN Racing 1:25.398 0.867 72
14 23 Colin Kaminsky Pabst Racing 1:25.502 0.971 43
15 90 Manuel Cabrera Exclusive Autosport 1:25.720 1.189 68
16 36 Nolan Siegel Newman Wachs Racing 1:26.046 1.515 104
17 69 Nate Aranda Team E – JAY 1:26.126 1.595 105
18 7 Christian Bogle Jay Howard Driver Development 1:26.772 2.241 5

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