Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Keane set for full USF2000 campaign with Newman Wachs

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After a partial Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season that began at Road America with Newman Wachs Racing, Darren Keane will step up to a full-time role next year with the team. It marks the official kickoff to the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires driver signings for the 2018 season.

Keane still ended 11th in points despite missing three of the 14 races. He raced nine of his 11 starts with Newman Wachs after debuting with Team BENIK at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

His best finish was fourth in Toronto and he also topped the times just recently with NWR at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test at IMS.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“We had the pleasure of running Darren last year in his rookie season and we’re thrilled to have him back with us for 2018,” offered Brian Halahan, NWR Team Manager.

“I’m stoked with the speed he showed at the Chris Griffis test at Indianapolis and I’m extremely impressive with his development. He’s matured so much over the last few months and I’m pleased that we’ll be able to continue on the path that we started on last year. I’m very exciting for next season.”

The karting graduate has excelled mightily under the coaching tutelage of Ozz Negri.

“I’m really happy to be signing with NWR,” Keane said. “They’re a great group of guys and we have improved so much as a team over the last season. I’m really pleased to have a plan put together this early, because it gives us all the time we need to prepare for a championship next season. I think we’re going to have a great year and I’m looking forward to coming back to USF2000. Last year’s purpose was to learn as much as I could, and now I’m ready to use that knowledge to get results this season.”

Column: Contrasting Michael Schumacher’s and Robert Wickens’ situations

(Photo: Tony Gentile / Reuters)
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As much of the world looks forward to Christmas and New Years Day in the next few weeks, a dark anniversary is also on the near horizon.

It’s hard to believe that December 29 will mark five years since seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher was critically injured in a skiing accident, suffering a traumatic brain injury.

Schumacher and his family were on holiday in the French Alps when he fell and struck his head on a boulder. The impact was so severe that it cracked the helmet he was wearing straight through.

One can only imagine the damage the impact did to Schumacher’s skull and brain.

While chronologically the accident occurred a half-decade ago, for many of “Schu’s” most ardent fans, it seems like it was just yesterday when the earth-shattering news broke.

In the following days and weeks after his accident, Schumacher was placed in a medically induced coma, as well as had at least two surgeries on his brain.

Since then the world has waited for news about the racing legend’s condition, only to receive very little in terms of updates over the subsequent five years.

That’s the way his family wants it, having repeatedly requested privacy when it comes to details about Michael’s condition. That request for privacy should be respected.

Schumacher’s wife, Corrina, issued a rare statement late last month that didn’t really say much about her husband’s condition or recovery, but she did thank fans and well-wishers for their continued prayers and concern about her husband, adding, “We all know Michael is a fighter and will not give up.”

In the meantime, Schumacher’s fans have been able to stay somewhat close to his legacy by watching as his 19-year-old son, Mick, has showed significant achievement in his own budding racing career.

So much so that rumors have already popped up that the younger Schu may soon follow in his father’s F1 footsteps, perhaps as early as 2020.

That, of course, remains to be seen.

What makes the Schumacher situation so difficult for many to still understand is how, while enjoying a simple skiing excursion with his family, he suffered a life-changing accident while having survived some wicked crashes during his racing career that barely affected him.

We still don’t know if Schumacher can walk, talk, is conscious and lucid or not – and many of his fans have already accepted that we may never, ever know any of those details. But if that’s the way he and/or his family want it, again, then we need to respect their wishes.

At the same time, there’s another race car driver who suffered a horrendous injury at Pocono Raceway this past August, namely IndyCar driver Robert Wickens.

Wickens suffered a devastating spinal cord injury that has left him a paraplegic – although there remains a great deal of hope that he will one day walk again.

While both suffered serious injuries, there’s a significant contrast between Schumacher and Wickens. The former (or his family) is keeping all details about his condition private, while the latter keeps his fans and supporters regularly updated on social media on how he’s doing.

That includes Wickens posting a number of videos, including some rather humorous ones where he has a mischievous look in his eyes or a good-natured smirk on his face — like bringing in a Christmas tree to his rehab facility, or “racing” teammate James Hinchcliffe in wheelchairs in a Days of Thunder homage of sorts.

Watching each new Wickens video or reading his most recent online messages, it’s very clear that expressing himself and reaching out to the world is indeed good therapy and medicine of sorts for the Canadian driver.

He needs those social media posts and videos as much as we need them from him.

And it also helps fans better understand where Wickens is at in his recovery and rehab.

If Schumacher or his family wish to still remain private about his condition, we must respect that. But perhaps they could see the good will and good tidings that Wickens’ videos and posts offer. They’re as good for Wickens’ own well-being as they are for his fans — and they could be equally as good for Schumacher, his family and his fans.

Follow @JerryBonkowski