Phoenix II: Clint Bowyer race report

Late Race Surge Spoiled by an Accident in the Valley of the Sun, CJM Racing Finishes 35th Avondale, AZ. -- A race car tweaked to perfection and a driver with a strong background at Phoenix International Raceway should have made for a...

Late Race Surge Spoiled by an Accident in the Valley of the Sun, CJM Racing Finishes 35th

Avondale, AZ. -- A race car tweaked to perfection and a driver with a strong background at Phoenix International Raceway should have made for a productive day in the Valley of the Sun for CJM Racing. That was the case until a late race accident found the No. 11 InvestLinc Chevy right in the middle of the carnage. Running in the top-15, Keller got caught up in the incident and was forced to park the No. 11 machine back in the garage area; relinquishing the team to a 35th place finish.

CJM Racing headed out west to make their NASCAR Busch Series debut with veteran driver Jason Keller and high hopes of scoring another top-10 finish. The team has worked relentlessly to prove their belonging in the NASCAR Busch Series against a field of 18 NEXTEL Cup regulars. With qualifying out of the way and the No. 11 InvestLinc Chevy placed firmly in the show Keller began to work his magic on a track he excels at.

Starting from the 25th position, Keller patiently held his ground while getting a feel for the track conditions and the handling of the race car. When the first caution flag flew on lap eight Keller reported in, "There is no rear grip. We need to work on turning better in the corners." With it being too early in the race for a pit stop, crew chief Todd Gordon asked Keller to stay out on the track in hopes of the handling turning itself around as the laps continued.

As the ARIZONA.TRAVEL 200 resumed under the hot sun, Keller continued to experience some handling discrepancies. While fast on the straight-aways, the No. 11 InvestLinc Chevy still remained troublesome in the corners. A tight handling condition was plaguing the race car. When the leaders were called to pit road on lap 45, Keller followed and the team went to work with four fresh tires, fuel, an air pressure and track bar adjustment.

Back out on track and restarting in the 24th position, the field experienced a long green flag run and Keller was able to do some maneuvering around the field. As he climbed up into the top-20, it was apparent that the handling was still a little off from where it needed to be. To help alleviate the problem, Keller returned to pit road, under caution, on lap 117 for new tires, fuel, an air pressure adjustment and a rubber in the right rear.

Quick work by the team advanced the No. 11 machine up a few positions and Keller restarted 19th.

The changes proved to be beneficial as Keller began to make his surge to the front. As the green flag laps continued so did the momentum and Keller broke into the top-15 by lap 129. The No. 11 InvestLinc Chevy suddenly became a strong contender in the 200-lap event as Keller was turning laps as quick as the leader. Unfortunately the promise of a top finish would fall short just a few laps later. A restart on lap 137 proved to be disastrous as some of the cars in front of Jason got tangled up on the frontstretch. With no place to go, Keller fell victim to the situation and damaged the front end of the car. Realizing that the damages were too severe to mend in a timely manner, Keller drove the No. 11 back to the garage. CJM Racing later posted a 35th place finishing position.

"We had the car dialed in and handling great right before that accident. It's really to bad because I know we could of finished in the top-10 easily. We just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was no way to avoid what was going on in front of me," Keller remarked.

-credit: cjm

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jason Keller , Clint Bowyer