RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond International Raceway has always been one of Jason Keller's favorite tracks, but he had never finished higher than fifth on the .75-mile D-shaped oval. Keller's luck took a turn for the better this evening after he...
RICHMOND, Va. -- Richmond International Raceway has always been one of Jason Keller's favorite tracks, but he had never finished higher than fifth on the .75-mile D-shaped oval. Keller's luck took a turn for the better this evening after he survived a caution-filled Busch Series marathon to win his first race at RIR. As luck would have it, Keller's third win of the season came at the expense of an impressive performance by rookie Bobby Hamilton Jr., who ran out of gas with 10 laps to go.
"I've always set that Richmond was my favorite race track and it's kind of odd because I'd never won here," Keller explained after the eighth win of his career. "I had a lot of confidence coming in and I tried to let the race unfold for me early. I just kept trying to read my car. We're doing what we need to be doing. We just need to keep winning races, and we'll be okay."
While Keller attempted to get a handle on his PPC Racing Ford, he and the rest of the field had to contend with the track's new sealant, which seemed to make it way too easy for some of the drivers to race two and three-wide early in the race. As a result the race was slowed 11 times for 85 laps.
"The second groove on the track didn't come in as soon as it usually does, but late in the race you could really go up high," Keller said. "You still have to stay around the bottom though. My car stayed free all day long and I don't understand it because you usually get a little tighter as the race goes on and we got a little bit looser as the race went on. We did some things different tonight with our set up and it kept our car on the bottom."
Before Hamilton's engine gave up, he and Keller fought tooth and nail for the lead with less than 30 laps remaining. "We had already got by him one time and I really messed up when I let him get back by me," Keller stated. "I went on the defense way too soon. We had already caught him -- he had already got a 10 car length lead and we had already run him back down. I know I had a faster race car. But catching somebody and passing them are two different things. I'm just glad I didn't have to find out."
Ashton Lewis Jr. finished 1.878 seconds behind Keller in his Dodge. "We were way too loose at the start of the race, but we stuck with it and kept working on it until I could really drive it," he said shortly after the best finish of his career.
Greg Biffle nursed his Ford home in third. "I came from the back three times," Biffle explained. "I wore everything out on the car. We overheated early in the race and then we were sent to the end of the longest line for leaving a tire outside of our pit box on the next restart. I didn't have the car I wanted, so I had to settle for third."
Keller's triumph also enabled him to take over the Busch Series point's lead from Jack Sprague.
Johnny Benson was taken to Memorial Region Medical Center for x-rays and a CT scan after a violent collision with rookie Brian Vickers in Turn 2. Benson was diagnosed with a broken right rib, but his CT scan was negative. He is currently undergoing more tests.