The Race Against the Rain at Bristol Motor Speedway (March 15, 2008) Bristol, Tenn. -- Predicting the weather was key heading into Bristol Motor Speedway over the weekend. Once again Mother Nature frowned down on the 43-car field heading into...
The Race Against the Rain at Bristol Motor Speedway
(March 15, 2008) Bristol, Tenn. -- Predicting the weather was key heading into Bristol Motor Speedway over the weekend. Once again Mother Nature frowned down on the 43-car field heading into the Sharpie Mini 300 on Saturday afternoon. With high hopes of completing the 300 lap event, CJM Racing looked to pit strategy and finished out the rain shortened event in the 15th position.
CJM Racing came into Bristol Motor Speedway knowing they had all the key elements in place to win the 300-lap shoot out. Not only was the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet handling to perfection, driver Jason Keller held the most experience at the "World's Fastest Half-Mile" with 29 starts at the famed race track. Keller broke yet another record this weekend as he beat Tommy Houston's record of 28 starts at Bristol.
It became evident that weather was going to plague the Nationwide Series teams not too long into the first day of activities. Rain fell and with that the schedule was adjusted. Friday's practice sessions were cancelled and took the place of qualifying on Saturday morning. The field would be set by last year's owner points, placing Keller in the 31st position.
Heading into Saturday, the sky's looked blue and the sun shined down on the facility. The America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet took to the track for an hour and a half practice session and posted an impressive ninth place speed on the board. The momentum was strong and the team was ready for some race action.
That was until the storm system they had been dreading moved in and finally unleashed on the Tri-City area. Rain once again fell and pushed the start of the Sharpie Mini 300 back to 4:30 pm (EST). With a window of opportunity, drivers jumped into their cars and strapped in for the start of the race.
Keller quickly moved through the field and gained seven positions when the first caution flag flew on lap three. The No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet was a bit on the free side but still a strong race car. Keller remained out on track for the next 42 laps when a mandatory competition caution flag was displayed on lap 45. The majority of the field entered pit road for maintenance and the No. 11 machine received four tires, fuel and a slight air pressure adjustment.
The No. 11 restarted in the 22nd position and gained some strong momentum heading up to the 17th position just a few laps in. The surge would be cut short on lap 61 as a spin occurred just in front of the America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevy. Keller was nicked on the quarter panel and called to pit road to check out the damages. The damage was minor and Keller was able to rejoin the field and continue his quest to the front.
Running constant times and avoiding any on-track incidents, the No. 11 maintained track position and held strong in the top 15. As the half-way mark approached so did the rain. Fear of another storm system loomed over the teams and it became anyone's game at that point.
The caution flag on lap 163 set the tone for the ending of the rain shortened Sharpie Mini 300. Crew chief Todd Gordon made a gutsy call and brought the America's Incredible Pizza Company machine down pit road for four tires, fuel, a track bar and air pressure adjustment to help alleviate a tight handling race car.
Back out on track, the red flag was soon to follow. The sky's turned dark and the rain started to fall a little harder. NASCAR and the teams waited it out in hopes of going back to green but that dream would never become a reality. The No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company race car would have to settle for a 15th place finish in the rain shortened event.