Season Opener at Daytona not so Kind to CJM Racing (February 16, 2008) Daytona Beach, Fl. -- CJM Racing made their Superspeedway debut at Daytona International Speedway this weekend. The team came into the high banks of Daytona with a brand new...
Season Opener at Daytona not so Kind to CJM Racing
(February 16, 2008) Daytona Beach, Fl. -- CJM Racing made their Superspeedway debut at Daytona International Speedway this weekend. The team came into the high banks of Daytona with a brand new race car, a veteran driver and a lot of pressure to perform. The excitement of making the field would later turn to disappointment as Keller got tangled up in a late race accident and was forced to park the No. 11 Conrad Yelvington/Allstate Materials Chevrolet with just 10 laps remaining.
CJM Racing has become accustomed to pressure entering the race track every race weekend. Last season the fledgling Nationwide Series team had to make each race based on time and 2008 is no different. With 53 entries in the Camping World 300, Keller and CJM Racing were up against some stiff competition. 23 cars were competing for 12 open slots in the season opener at Daytona.
Under the new qualifying procedures, Keller drew a late qualifying spot and took to the track 45th. A 50 second run around the track would take what would feel like an eternity for the CJM Racing team. The No. 11 CYDI/Allstate Materials Chevrolet ran a 50.337 second qualifying run which secured the team in the field and gave Keller a midfield starting position at 20th.
With the starting position secured, the team began to think about race strategy. After consulting with some other teams and a lot of discussion among crew chief Todd Gordon and Keller the team laid out their plan to hold back for the starting laps of the Camping World 300.
The excitement mounted as 43 drivers climbed into their race cars to start out the 2008 race season.
As the green flag flew, Keller quietly dropped to the rear of the field and hoped to avoid any melee that took place in the front of him. While no carnage on the race track took place immediately, the No. 11 machine did cause some concern as Keller reported in, "Really, really tight" on lap seven.
The handling woes would continue until green flag pit stops began to cycle through around lap 36. Running in the 26th position, Keller brought the No. 11 down pit road for four fresh tires, fuel, a right rear rubber, air pressure and track bar adjustment.
Falling back in line with the rest of the pack, Keller was displayed in the 34th position, one lap down, on lap 40. Unfortunately the handling problems did not end at the initial pit stop as Keller reported in, "No change in the handling. Lack of grip everywhere."
The No. 11 CYDI/Allstate Materials Chevy returned to pit road again on lap 56 in hopes of adjusting the handling concerns and getting Keller back on the lead lap. Gordon called for a two tire stop with fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
Restarting in the 27th position, Keller did all he could to try and maneuver through the field and bring home a solid finish for CJM Racing.
On-track the driving became more aggressive as the laps began to wind down. Keller was caught up multiple times in three-wide racing and had a couple close calls. The team's luck would eventually run out as Keller was bumped from behind with 10 laps remaining. The on-track incident involved nine race cars and would send four of those back to the garage area including Keller.
"This is not what we had hoped for coming into the first race of the season. These guys have worked hard to put together a solid program. The race car was a bit of a handful but we would have been there till the end if we hadn't gotten caught up in that mess," Keller explained.
CJM Racing made a total of four pit stops throughout the 120-lap event and would have to settle for a 36th place finish at the end of the day.