FLATSIXES.com’s Great Driver Series: Andrew Davis and Leh Keen

In 2010, Brumos Racing Vice President Hurley Haywood announced the team’s return to GT racing, once again bestowing the “famous 59” back on its original platform, the Porsche 911. When the white, blue and red-liveried 997 Porsche Cup was unveiled, the drivers who would be piloting it for the season – Andrew Davis and Lehman “Leh” Keen – were standing by. Both drivers had slowly and steadily built up their driving resumes in the years leading to the announcement that would be, in their own words, “a dream come true.”

Andrew Davis and Leh Keen in front of Brumos Racing Porsche #59

Photo Credit: Patti Tantillo

Born and raised at the Race Track: Andrew Davis

"My pride for and history with Porsche runs deep,” says Andrew Davis as we begin talking about his career as a professional driver and his eventual appointment as the co-driver of Brumos Racing’s Famous 59. For Davis, racing and motorsport has always had a family-oriented feel. “I was four the first time I went to Road Atlanta with my dad, who raced MG Midgets with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA). For our vacations, we went to the race track – we didn’t go to Disney World or skiing. As a kid, I spent many, many hours observing cars on track and became enamored with the sport.” As he grew older, his parents allowed him to leave school early during race weekends so he could head to the track and watch. The endless hours of motorsport observation gave young Andrew a sense of what drivers were doing inside the car years before he ever stepped behind the wheel.

Davis did not do any karting as a kid, and he had to wait what seemed like an eternity to race. “You had to wait until you were 18 to get your race license then, although that has changed since. My parents gave me a Skip Barber course as a high school graduation gift.” By the time Andrew obtained his race license, his father had switched to racing Sports 2000 in SCCA, and Andrew joined him. “The S2000 is like a miniature sports racer—low horsepower but also low weight and lots of downforce,” remembers Andrew, “so I was able to cut my teeth with a very fast and able race car and learn all these great race tracks like Road Atlanta right away.”

After driving in S2000, Andrew made the move to open wheel racing with the USF2000 championship. It was then that he realized the world of motorsports still had a great many challenges left for him. “I realized the level of competition that was in open-wheel racing. Dan Wheldon was out there—it was a very competitive field! It was an awakening for me. I came in thinking I was dominant and unbeatable, but then all of a sudden I realized a lot of those guys were better than me!”

Aside from the competition, which Andrew was prepared to work hard to beat, another challenge became apparent: funds. “Although I had some very good offers, money [became] an issue<," says Davis. “Once I found out what my folks had spent on the last year of F2000, I told them, that’s it, no more, I’ll figure this out.” He was about to graduate college and was determined to fund his racing on his own.

While accepting every opportunity to drive that came his way, Davis found driver coaching and teaching positions at the Panoz Racing School at Road Atlanta in Braselton, GA and the Porsche Sport Driving School (PSDS, formerly Porsche Sport Driving Experience) at Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, AL. Teaching performance driving was never a chore for him—he genuinely enjoyed helping drivers refine their skills.

Another change in trajectory Andrew made was to pursue sports car racing. “It was very easy for me to make a jump into sports car racing. I just didn’t realize that I would jump into the deep end and have some success early on.” His first sports car race, the 2001 Rolex 24, was an eye-opening experience, and later that year he raced at Petit Le Mans, where he earned a second place finish for Archangel Motorsports. Soon, he was being hired to drive GT cars. Between 2001-10, Davis drove successfully for several teams, most notably Archangel Motorsports, Tafel Racing and Stevenson Motorsports, and caught the attention of many, among them Hurley Haywood, whom he first met while instructing at the PSDS.

In 2001, Andrew was teaching at the Panoz Racing School when a kid named Leh Keen walked in. “I’m not sure he was of legal age at the time!” Davis smiles, fondly recalling their first meeting. “I was doing some driver coaching at Road Atlanta and had my Subaru WRX with me. He was into those cars. I was watching my customer drive around, and this tall, lanky kid came up and we started talking.”

Let the Kid Drive: Leh Keen

Leh Keen confirms Davis’ suspicions regarding his age at the time he attended the Panoz School. “Yeah, the Panoz Driving School was my Christmas present, and I was able to sneak in right before I turned 18,” he says. Keen went to the driving school because his father stipulated he should attend a formal driving school before Keen Sr. allowed him to drive his beloved Porsche 993 Supercup (see photo below) at a DE. Keen gladly agreed to attend the school, and recalls, “a couple of weeks before I went, I had to borrow my buddy’s pickup truck so I could learn to drive stick!”

Photo credit (c) Leh Keen.

Photo credit (c) Leh Keen.

It turns out that, like Davis, Leh Keen had grown up watching cars at the track. “My Dad was into cars; he had a 930 911 as long as I can remember,” says Keen. “He bought the cheapest one he could find and repaired it and repaired it. When I was about 10, he bought a really nice 930 – it was black and had black RUF wheels on it – it was really pretty. I called the passenger side of that 930 my side.”

Like Davis, Keen did not kart as a kid. However, he may have not been driving, but he was watching and learning. “I always wanted to go watch racing with my Dad, and when I turned 13 my Mom finally gave permission. That was the era when 993 911s were racing. By then, I was really into cars and the history of racing. I knew a lot about Porsches. My Dad was such a hardcore Porsche fan that when we watched racing and I pointed out anything else, he would shrug as if to say, whatever, it’s not a Porsche!

At about that time, Keen, Sr. started to attend PCA Driver’s Education events (DEs). “Because he didn’t want to track his 930, my Dad bought a 993 Supercup track car,” says Keen, “At that time, you had to be 18 to drive in PCA DEs, so I skateboarded around the paddock and checked tire pressures.” He learned all he could about cars, and by the time he got to the Panoz Driving School, he was ready to drive.

After he completed the driving school, days Keen, “I finally got to drive my Dad’s 993 Supercup at a Roebling Road PCA DE. He had been driving that car for years. I hopped in and was driving his car around, and someone came up to him and said, "hey McGrath, you’ve really improved! What did you do? You got a lot better!” Keen, Sr. couldn’t have been more proud to answer, “that’s not me, it’s my son.” Soon, driving in PCA events and enduros became something Keen and his father did together.

To this day, the car he learned to drive in -- his father’s 993 Supercup– is Keen’s favorite Porsche. “I’ve driven many Porsches now -- from a ’73 911 S to 997 RSRs. But my favorite is still the 993 Supercup. It is a street car – all metal body, 310 HP, gutted into a race car. I still love to drive that car…I’d love to be driving it right now! It’s so simple and quick and fun to drive.”

From DEs, Keen quickly graduated to GrandAm events in 2005 (with Autometrics), where he finished 3rd in the points and won a race at Watkins Glen. We first noticed Leh in 2006, when we came across the 2006 YouTube video Let the Kid Drive (that's it above), and first met him whilst interviewing Dirk Werner, his Farnbacher-Loles co-driver (Keen joked, hey, what about interviewing me!? and won us over). From his work with Farnbacher-Loles he garnered a 2009 win, which he describes as “very special. We got to go to Weissach and got a private tour of the brand-new Porsche museum. Plenty of good memories there for sure!” In 2010, Keen earned the pole in the 12 Hours of Sebring for Alex Job Racing, and joined Dempsey Racing as a full-time driver in the Rolex Series, where he earned the team their first win ever. Teams were now asking the kid to drive.

Davis and Keen Cross Paths

The world of motorsports is a small one. Soon after Keen started racing in GrandAm, he ran into Andrew Davis again. Says Davis, “once [Leh] started racing with Autometrics and I was with Tafel, we started sharing the track. I was already very impressed with his driving. At times he would ask me for advice, and I was very honored to be put in that position.”

As the friendship grew between Keen and Davis, so did their competitiveness. “We had some epic battles between 2008-10 where we were at each other’s throats and bumping into each other,” chuckles Davis. “We like to tell the story of where we ran each other off the track at Salt Lake City. [Leh] bumped me and I came on the radio and said, if Leh bumps me again, I am sending him off—you better tell him that! And then he comes by and makes a good move and passes me in turn 5. Mysteriously, my car tracked out really wide, and we went wheel to wheel and I pushed him into the dirt. He got the best of me there!” Adds Davis, “I gained a tremendous amount of respect for Leh from that wheel-to-wheel racing. But where I have been fortunate is in the personal relationship that Leh and I have developed over the years. He is a great friend and a good guy. We have a tremendous amount in common – but not height!” Keen (who, by the way, is 6’5) agrees: “Andrew and I get along well. We have had such a good time over the years!”

When Hurley Haywood Calls…

Both Davis and Keen had been focused on winning for their respective teams when the call from Brumos’ Hurley Haywood came in 2010. Both drivers (along with many others) had idolized Haywood as young motorsport fans. “When I was a kid, of course I knew who Hurley Haywood was<,” says the self-described “Porsche Nut” Leh Keen. Davis, who calls Haywood his “childhood hero,”remembers cheering for him at Road Atlanta as a kid.

“I wasn’t really surprised to get a call from Hurley,” says Davis. Davis had been working alongside Haywood at the PSDS and for various Porsche press events. He was, however, taken aback after Haywood told him Brumos was stepping away from prototype racing and getting back to their roots, and they wanted Davis as their driver. “Once I picked myself off the floor after falling off my chair, it was a very easy answer. I had gone from being a fan of Hurley’s, to being a coworker and considering it the coolest thing ever. So when I got the call, I was wondering what he wanted. He blew me away!”

For Leh Keen, the surprise was even better. “My Dad, who is my manager, got the call. [Brumos’] Alwin Springer knew some changes were going, so he told my Dad to sit tight. A week later Hurley called him. My girlfriend and I were on our way up north for a vacation and he called us and said, "we finally got the call that we’ve been waiting for.” Keen was puzzled. Keen Sr. continued, “I just got off the phone with Brumos team principal Dan Davis. They are going GT racing and they want you to be their driver.” That vacation turned out to be one of the best Keen’s ever had. “It was what I’d been waiting for,” he says.

When asked about how the co-drivers were chosen, Brumos’ Hurley Haywood is generous with the compliments for Davis and Keen. “Andrew I have known for a while,” says Haywood. “He is an instructor at the PSDS. I was impressed with the way he was able to explain cars to novice people. I have watched his career develop, and when we switched from DP to GT, he was the first guy on my list.” When it came to Leh, whom he first met when Keen attended the Porsche Cup Awards in 2009, Haywood had “seen him drive and been impressed.”

The Return of the Famous 59

For Andrew Davis, the reality of driving for Brumos didn’t sink in until he arrived at Daytona in January 2011. “Once I had the Brumos driving suit on, it was easy to get lost in the emotion,” he says, adding, “I had realistic expectations that we wanted to perform our best, but I expected it to take a while; the first season would be a buildup for the second. I thought we would build the program to be the best it could be. I just didn’t think that it would happen so quickly. The first season was a dream. The support of the people who came out was overwhelming. People were so supportive of Leh and I, and I think this pushed us together quickly. I would have been passionate about it myself if I’d had nothing to do with it – but to see my name on the side of the car was a dream come true. ”Keen seconds Davis’ thoughts on their maiden season. “In 2011, we were the underdog, but we were not the favorite car” says Keen. “We worked extremely hard. We had some good luck and bad luck. We got to Mid Ohio and knew what we had to do and we got it accomplished, and won the Championship.” In the first season back fielding a Porsche 997 Cup, Brumos were crowned champions.

Photo credit Bob Chapman

Photo credit Bob Chapman

For 2012, Brumos set the bar very high after their 2011 win. “We knew 2012 was going to be tough,” says Keen. “We knew the Ferrari would be very strong.” Davis agrees, saying, “we had more podiums and better finishes in 2012, but we were never able to win the races. There was quite a gap built by the Ferrari, and had it not been for Lime Rock, we would have finished 3rd in the points.” Keen, ever the optimist, adds, “at the end of the day, I was still driving the 59 and we were a championship team, so it was still a pleasure to be racing. Something I learned from the 2012 season was to stay positive and never give up. We are competitive and want to win every race, but that doesn’t happen. Being positive spreads just like negativity can. Every race is a new chance.” The can-do competitive spirit has always been (and continues to be) a big part of the Brumos team.

Teamwork and Friendship

A racing team’s success depends, to a great extent, on the relationship between its co-drivers. Keen and Davis, who work very well together, have very different personalities and driving styles.

We asked Hurley Haywood to speak about how he knew Keen and Davis would work well together. When you select drivers, Haywood says, “you choose personalities that won’t clash with each other,” adding, “Andrew is an A personality and Leh is a B personality, and it works out very well.” While Davis is analytical, able to pinpoint exactly what needs to be changed about the car, and succinct in his communications with the Brumos crew, Leh reminds Haywood of the driving style he had as a young driver. Keen, says Haywood, “just gets in the car and drives it.” When it comes to the car, Keen and Davis, adds Haywood, “make good compromises.” Keen agrees: "when the car is good for Andrew, it’s good for me.”

friends andrew davis and leh keen

Photo credit Wes Duenkel

For two drivers who can so readily agree on car setup, their driving styles differ quite a bit. “Our driving style is very different, but we like the same car,” says Davis, adding, “the manner in which we use the car is very different. [Leh] has more of a cowboy style – drive it in superhard, rotate early, and hang on to it. He forces the car more on entry, whereas I am more shallow on entry but I ask the car to do more mid-corner. The time comes out to be the same – I think it’s good to have different driving styles.” Keen agrees. “Our driving styles are a little bit different. When I get in [the car], I like to change the brake bias because I like to hang on to the brakes a little bit more in the corner.”

As Brumos moves forward in the 2013 Season, the team is confident in Keen and Davis, their individual talent, and the contributions they bring as co-drivers. Hurley Haywood, Vice President of Brumos and key advisor to Porsche understands the immense pressure drivers are under these days. It’s not just about how fast a driver is; drivers have to wear many hats. “It’s incredible what drivers have to go through today. When I started, all that mattered was how fast you were. Now it is a package deal: psychological testing, media training, grooming school, dress, etc. It’s non-stop, and driving is a big part of it but not all of it. Andrew and Leh have evolved naturally.” We asked Haywood to elaborate. “Andrew was already good at conversation, and that talent helped him when he taught at PSDS, whereas Leh is very shy, and at first you had to force him to give you information. But once he got comfortable with us, he was like a teddy bear.”

Davis is still blown away when he hears Haywood speak highly of him. “He is my advisor now. We are so lucky. When you have Hurley Haywood representing you, it makes things so much easier because he has been there and done it. His advice is so helpful.”

Daytona and Beyond: The 2013 Season

Andrew Davis and Leh Keen are looking forward to the remainder of the 2013 season, which kicked off on January 26th with the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. In spite of starting out as one of the preseason favorites, the grueling 24 Hours proved unlucky for the Brumos squad. Davis, who did his best to avoid a spinning car, had to bring the 59 in for extensive repairs which cost the team the race (read more about Brumos Racing and Porsche's results at the Rolex 24). Of their competitors, Audi in particular had a strong start.

Photo credit Bob Chapman

Photo credit Bob Chapman

Both Keen and Davis are aware of the competition and are eager to face it. “Moving forward, we have a lot of strong events [in 2013]. Leh and I are really excited about the Circuit of the Americas (read more about Brumos Racing's results at COTA). Barber is a track I know very well, and Road Atlanta is our home track. We are looking forward to the 2013 season.” Davis adds, mischievously, “hopefully we will be able to get out in front and run everyone else’s day and spread some champagne!” Without doubt, the fans of the Famous 59 will be there to cheer them on.

Driver FAQ

We asked Andrew Davis and Leh Keen to answer FLATSIXES.com's Driver Q&A

Favorite race track:
AD: Road Atlanta is an emotional place for me because I have been going there since age 4. I can sit there all night and hang out. It is also the type of track I love – elevation, blind corners and fast corners. I like a track that challenges me.

LK: The Nurburgring’s Nordschleife is my favorite, but since it’s not a standard race track, I am going to say Watkins Glen (the long course). I love the climbing esses. Road Atlanta is one of my favorites also. I love VIR’s climbing esses too – love that fast stuff!

Favorite Race:
AD: the 2012 Daytona Rolex 24. We were coming of the Championship and I was able to get the pole on the 50th anniversary – that was something very special. There were lots of great drivers there. During my first stint, I was driving away from Pat Long and Andy Lally and thought, this is just so awesome! I could be in that moment the rest of my life and be happy. It was one of the most heartbreaking races for Brumos, but sharing the podium with Hurley for 3rd place will always go down as one of my favorite moments.

Music:
AD: I listen to rock and roll and grunge metal, which is what I grew up with – Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains, for example. I don’t listen to music before I drive. I got away from that very early on because I want to be calm and relaxed when I get in the car.

LK: I really like Deadmau5 and always listen to BPM on satellite radio. Andrew has totally different taste in music from me. The first time we got in a rental car together on our way to the race track, I put on some Deadmau5 and Andrew goes, “WHAT are you listening to?!” Now that we have listened to Deadmou5 on our way to the track many times, he has confessed it has gotten him through a few workouts.

Daily Driver:
AD: I drive an Audi S4. I enjoy it quite a bit. I’ve always liked Audi because they are very innovative on the race track, and I like the racing heritage in street cars. I also like that it is in the Porsche family. I would have a Porsche if I could afford it, or if Brumos would give me a sweet deal!

LK: I drive a 2007 E63. It has 500 HP, which I had to have, even though I will never use.

What about all that free time?
AD: I spend all my free time playing with my son. I have fallen completely back into being a kid again! He likes anything with wheels, so I recently got a BMX bike so we can bike together.

LK: If I am not driving, I am playing with RC planes. I have been building them over the last 6 months. It’s pretty cool what you can buy or build.

Fun Fact: Leh tells us about “Kill”

Photo by Jackie Buys http://www.motorsportspassion.com

Photo by Jackie Buys at http://www.motorsportspassion.com

Are you a fan of Leh Keen? Then you surely know his mascot, Kill. We asked Leh to tell us how Kill came to be. My buddy was making stickers in 2006 and he sent me one of a tater-tot looking creature. The Supra was up on the alignment rack, and I stuck a sticker on the bumper. We were bored, so I cut arms and legs out for him and made him hold a broken car and added KILL. I started racing in GrandAm and started having these made—ever since then, Kill has been on every car I have ever raced. He represents good luck and a killer instinct. I really like seeing old pictures of the LeMans racecar and seeing kill on the mirror. If I drive a car now and there isn’t a kill on the mirror, I need to get one on there before I race.”

Interview by Christian Maloof / Story by Valerie Roedenbeck

Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
Take a Lap at The Circuit of the Americas from the Perspective of Leh Keen
A Conversation with Vic Elford at the Larz Anderson Porsche Club Concours
Interview with Patrick Long
Interview with Wolf Henzler
Interview with Joerg Bergmeister

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1 Comments

  1. Sebastien Geneve says

    Hello,

    I myself own a 993 supercup and also 964 cup cars. I leave in France and I try to gather information on similar cup cars to mine and would like to ask if you would be willing to share further information on your car.

    If you do not want I will totally understand

    thanks for your response

    Sebastien

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