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Pirelli Paddock Pass: Matt Keegan

This week’s Pirelli Paddock Pass with Team Panoz Racing driver Matt Keegan…

Photo: Panoz

Matt Keegan is enjoying a great start to the season and is coming off of a Pirelli GT4 America Sprint Am class victory on the streets of Long Beach.

This week in the Pirelli Paddock Pass, Keegan tells us why that win was so special, what it’s like to drive for Team Panoz Racing, and more.

What is the significance to you of joining the list of winners at the Long Beach Grand Prix?

“I’m still puzzled from the weekend, to be honest with you. It was so fun. Last year was the first year that I was able to go to that event and I went as a spectator because I live nearby.

“Paul Holton won last year, and he was my teammate when I ran in a different series, so it was really fun to go there as a spectator, but at the same time I’m a driver and spectating is kind of hard!

“At that point last year, I resolved to do this race.

“To go do it, having friends and family all there, it was great. A lot of them had never seen me race before live, so to actually have them there to support me was really cool.”

What makes Long Beach special?

“Long Beach is such a great event. It’s probably my favorite event now, for a lot of reasons.

“If you go to a place like Sebring, it’s a great event and there’s so many fans there, but in those events there are so many motor homes and things in the infield where, yes, you see the fans, but really when you’re driving around the track you see the motor homes and the trailers.

“Long Beach, you have these bleachers, and it’s hard not to see the amount of fans there to watch this race. That was really cool to have that many people out there.

“For example, after the race on Sunday, I brought my trophy to go visit some friends and it took me a half hour to get from our paddock because the fans were so excited wanting autographs and pictures.”

How would you assess your season so far?

“I feel like I’m always the bridesmaid over the last several years. I’ve always been in the hunt for the championship and have had bad luck at times, which has impacted our ability to bring one home.

“I think we’ve been top three every year over the last few year in various championships. I’m really hopeful that Preston and I together are going to be able to pull that off this year.

“We’ve got the preparation down and the team is so good. Their attention to detail is exceptional, and that’s important. I’ve been training really hard in the offseason.

“I was hoping we would do better at COTA and just by dumb luck we pulled out a third place finish in Race 2.

“Our qualifying effort at COTA wasn’t great, those conditions were tough, and if you have an issue in qualifying that’s a problem for race day.

“To be able to pull off a win and third there on Sunday was good because it kept our podium streak alive, dating back to Lime Rock of last year.”

How do you feel about the upcoming weekend at VIR?

“I really like these old school tracks. I think that’s why I had some success at Long Beach.

“My ability to put together consistent laps, with all the coaching and practice I’ve had over the years, people have really instilled that in me, including my current teammate Ian James.

“On those older tracks you have to be precise. At a track like COTA, you can get away with being a little sloppy, so I think at these tracks like VIR, for example, going up through the esses you need to be precise. I think that will suit us.

“We didn’t do great at VIR last year but we weren’t terrible, and that was only my second race in the car.

“I’m much, much more comfortable in the car now and have a better feel for it, so I’m optimistic that we’ll have a good result at VIR.”

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