Darlington: Jason Keller race report

CJM Racing Overcome Several Obstacles to Post Their First Top-10 of the Season (May 9, 2008) Darlington, SC -- Darlington Raceway will always hold a special place in the hearts of CJM Racing. What is considered Keller's 'home town' track is...

CJM Racing Overcome Several Obstacles to Post Their First Top-10 of the Season

(May 9, 2008) Darlington, SC -- Darlington Raceway will always hold a special place in the hearts of CJM Racing. What is considered Keller's 'home town' track is also the place where CJM Racing ran their first ever NASCAR Nationwide Series race and posted a 14th place finish just one year ago. The return to the newly repaved 1.336- mile facility would have several obstacles along the way but in the end the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet posted their first top-10 finish of the season.

43 teams entered into the historic Darlington Raceway unsure of what to expect. The track that was notoriously known for its rough surface and tire wear received a 'facelift' since last year's event. Since the teams were unable to test at the facility before the race weekend, NASCAR allotted three practice sessions as the teams unloaded Thursday morning.

The track 'too tough to tame' wreaked havoc on the teams during the three practice sessions. By the end of the night, 13 cars received significant damage requiring some teams to pull out their back-up cars for Friday night's race. Keller and the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet stayed out of the wall and was able to post their best practice run in the third and final session; 14th position on the board at 28.270 seconds, 173.951 mph.

As Thursday evening slowly came to a close, the America's Incredible Pizza Company race team discovered metal shaving's in the return filter and things changed drastically for the team. With NASCAR's permission, the crew decided to come into the track early Friday morning and change out the motor.

"We decided to change the motor as a precaution. Metal shaving's in a filter is never a good sign and it was better to be safe than sorry. We didn't want to have a repeat of Phoenix (DNF due to motor problems)," explained crew chief Todd Gordon.

NASCAR rules dictate that any time a motor is changed in the primary car; the team must go to the back of the field prior to the green flag. Despite the 29th place qualifying run, Keller fell to the back Friday evening and started the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 from the 41st position.

With a lot of patience and some quick maneuvering, Keller was able to avoid the on-track incidents in front of him and move up 18 positions just 19 laps into the 147-lap event. On lap 35, Keller radioed in, "I'm a little tight in turns three and four."

Despite being noted as the "biggest mover of the race", Keller fell a lap down running in the 20th position on lap 50.

As green flag pit stops began to occur around lap 55, the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevy came down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Keller was posted in the 24th position one lap down as the field began to cycle around on lap 65.

The No. 11 machine continued to tighten up and when the caution flag flew on lap 74 Gordon called Keller back down pit road. The America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevy received four new tires, fuel and another air pressure adjustment.

Running in the 21st position on lap 85, Keller was displayed as the first car one lap down to the leaders. Just two laps later the caution flag flew again and the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet would benefit from the Aaron's Lucky Dog Award when green flag racing resumed. A shot at a top-10 finish was a possibility again and Gordon brought the No. 11 down pit road a third time for some aggressive changes; four tires, fuel a track bar and wedge adjustment.

From that moment on, Keller never looked back. Accidents occurred all around and in front of the America's Incredible Pizza Company race car but Keller never fell victim. His patience and some quick calls from the spotter allowed him to maneuver through the field unscathed. 20 cars sustained damage throughout the evening and eight caution flags fell with two red flag periods.

By the end of the night, Keller was displayed in the seventh position. The No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet moved up a total of 34 spots which enabled the team to garner their first top-10 finish of the season.

-credit: cjm

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jason Keller