KELLER COMES FROM THREE LAPS DOWN TO FINISH 13TH AT KANSAS NASHVILLE, Tenn., Oct., 5, 2009 -- After Friday's practice sessions at Kansas Speedway, crew chief Todd Gordon and driver Jason Keller analyzed their situation and figured they had a...
KELLER COMES FROM THREE LAPS DOWN TO FINISH 13TH AT KANSAS
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Oct., 5, 2009 -- After Friday's practice sessions at Kansas Speedway, crew chief Todd Gordon and driver Jason Keller analyzed their situation and figured they had a car that probably wouldn't qualify well, but was capable of coming through the pack for a top-15 finish. The duo was right in their assessment, but little did they know how hard they would have to work to earn the Kleenex Racing team's 12th top-15 finish of the season.
Keller started the Kansas Lottery 300 from the 26th position and was running 25th when race leader Kyle Busch worked his way around the No. 27 Scott Tissue Ford Fusion on lap 36. Shortly after Busch put Keller a lap down, he radioed to crew chief Todd Gordon that he felt the right front tire was going down, but wasn't sure if the feeling was a product of the car being very tight. Gordon instructed Keller to remain on the track to try and get a better feeling for what was causing the problem.
On lap 47 Gordon brought Keller down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. When the veteran returned to the track he found himself three laps down in the 33rd position. The Kleenex Racing team examined the tires and found that the inner portion of the right front tire the chord was showing around the majority of the circumference.
As other teams made their regularly scheduled pit stops, Keller gained one lap back and was running in the 27th position when rookie John Wes Townley brought out the caution on lap 58. Keller was in a position to take the wave around and when the race went back to green on lap 64, was scored in the 26th position, one lap down.
The Greenville, S.C., native had made his way up to 22nd position when debris on the track brought out a caution on lap 108. Already over half way through a fuel run, crew chief Todd Gordon rolled the dice and elected to take stay out instead of pitting, putting Keller at the tail end of the field but back on the lead lap.
Keller took the green flag from the 17th position on lap 112 with about 30 laps of fuel left in the tank. On lap 125 Gordon communicated to Keller they he would have to bring his No. 27 Scott Tissue Ford Fusion to pit road on lap 141. With race leader Kyle Busch quickly closing in and just a few laps left on fuel, Gordon's gambled paid off when another caution for debris occurred on lap 137.
When the race resumed on lap 142, Keller was scored in the 16th position, the last car on the lead lap. Another caution quickly occurred on lap 147 which allowed several other cars back on the lead lap. As Keller battled a tight race car, he slowly fell back through the field into the 22nd position.
Rookie Michael Annett brought out the caution on lap 182 allowing the Kleenex Racing team to take advantage of the one thing they had that many other teams didn't, a fresh set of sticker tires. Keller brought his No. 27 Scott Tissue Ford Fusion to pit road for the final time where the Kleenex Racing crew put the four fresh tires on and took three rounds out of the left rear trackbar. When the race resumed on lap 188, Keller was scored in the 19th position.
Three lead-lap cars got together on lap 191, bringing out the race's final caution. When the race went back to green flag conditions on lap 194, Keller was scored in the 16th position. In the races final six laps Keller found that the team's final adjustment had freed the car and he made his way around three more cars to cross the finish line 13th.
"I'm really proud of this whole team for the effort they put in today, to come from a couple laps down and finish 13th it is definitely a testament to their determination," Keller said. "To make a late run at Steve (Wallace) and Justin (Allgaier) for the fifth position in points we have to maximize our finishes each and every week and we definitely did that today."
Keller, who is seventh in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Point Standings, and the Kleenex Racing team head to the Auto Club Speedway Saturday for the running of the Camping World RV 300 at 4:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN 2.