Daniel Keene, Jr. didn’t have the fastest Pro Late Model at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) on Friday night, but he capitalized when it mattered most. Keene, who started on the pole, faded back before using a lap 25 restart to power by early leader Derek Thorn. From there, the Weeki Wachee, Florida driver cruised to his first career World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing victory.
“We didn’t have the car for first-place tonight, but I knew if we could get him on that restart and get out in front in clean air that we would have the advantage,” Keene told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “The car was constantly getting tight on us and once we got in the clean air it really helped us out.”
Thorn led the majority of the first 20 circuits around the Florida half-mile and seemed to be well in control. That was until Cole Anderson charged to the front of the field and began challenging Thorn for the top spot.
Anderson made the pass for the lead on lap 24 before unexpectedly shooting towards and pounding the outside wall. The Anthony Campi Racing team will take Anderson’s No. 97 back to their shop in Sarasota, Florida and plan to be back at the track on Saturday night.
“Me and Thorn got together in turn three and I guess it broke the panhard bar and going into turn one it went loose,” said Anderson. “I went right into the fence.”
“He was slowly falling back and we were working on him on the bottom. Finally he got loose off of two, I got a good run going into three and took the lead. Once I got the lead, it broke right after that so it sucks, but we’ll get it back together.”
After giving up the lead to Keene on what proved to be the final restart of the race, Thorn settled for a runner-up finish. For the California native, the key throughout the race was survival.
“It took being dirty,” Thorn said after the race. “I don’t know what it is, but the 97 (Anderson) raced me hard; the 5 (Keene) got into us in one on the last restart there. It was one of those things where we were stout. The 97 got us and then he got into the wall on the front chute. We had a great car, though. We’re really optimistic about this week.”
Keene said after the race that he knew his only chance at victory would be to beat Thorn on the restart. In victory lane he described it has “a whole lot of heart,” but later in the night he explained his strategy.
“It was just a matter of being with him at the same time when we fired,” Keene said. “That last one I actually fired right as he did and was able to stay beside him going into one and two and got the better drive off the corner.”
With his win Friday night, Keene joins his father Daniel Keene, Sr. on the list of drivers to win during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. He’ll look to add another win on Saturday night when the division returns to action.
On-demand coverage including photos and lap-by-lap coverage can be seen by visiting NASCAR Home Tracks Race Central Live powered by Speed51.com.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman
PPG Pro Late Models Official Finish – Night #1
|1||5K||Daniel Keene Jr|
|19||36||Kevin Thomas Jr|
|20||5||Michael Clancy Jr|