Top-10 Finish Foiled by Late Race Bump at Las Vegas, CJM Racing Finishes 18th (March 1, 2008) Las Vegas, Nev. -- As the saying goes, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" and the CJM Racing team hopes that theory applies to the bad luck the...
Top-10 Finish Foiled by Late Race Bump at Las Vegas, CJM Racing Finishes 18th
(March 1, 2008) Las Vegas, Nev. -- As the saying goes, "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" and the CJM Racing team hopes that theory applies to the bad luck the team suffered at the conclusion of the Sam's Town 300. Running in the ninth position with just five laps to go, Keller checked up for an on-track accident when he was hit from behind and sent spinning. Damage to the front of the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company would place the team in the 18th position when the checkered flag dropped.
Lady luck appeared to be on the team's side as they began track activities on Friday. CJM Racing brought the same car they tested just a month prior in the Vegas test. That test proved beneficial as they posted speeds in the top-10 and would follow that up with a fifth place practice run Friday afternoon. Not only was the car strong, morale was high from coming off of a great run in California and a usual all white race car was transformed into an America's Incredible Pizza Company entry.
Keller's momentum did not falter heading into Saturday and the team posted the 11th place qualifying position for the Sam's Town 300.
Secure in the field, Keller buckled up for a 200-lap shoot out. He maintained his top position throughout the opening laps of the event. A slight concern over a lack of rear grip would send Keller to the pits on lap 25 for four fresh tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
Pit strategy became an integral part of the race as the laps continued. Fuel was key to winning the 300-mile event as well as a great handling race car.
With the handling becoming a greater concern over the course of the race, crew chief Todd Gordon called Keller to pit road a total of 10 times throughout the race. The first eight played out to be beneficial and handling improved significantly placing the No. 11 machine up in the top-10 with five laps remaining.
The unplanned two remaining pit stops would be a call of necessity. Keller was running in ninth position when two of the front runners, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards, tangled in front of him. Keller was able to check up and avoid getting caught up in the melee initially when out of nowhere David Ragan came up from behind and tapped the rear of the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet. The contact sent Keller spinning and caused significant damage to the front end of the car. The team worked feverishly over the course of two pit stops to keep Keller out on track. Wounded but able to limp across the finish line, Keller ended the day in the 18th position.
"It's heartbreaking that we ended up where we did. It seemed like we had it all figured out in the end with the handling and fuel strategy. The car was strong and running competitive speeds. I thought we were out of danger and then I felt a bump from behind. Let's hope we can get that elusive top-10 finish next weekend in Atlanta," Keller remarked.
Despite the not so stellar finish in a week filled with promise, the CJM Racing team moved up three positions in the driver standings to 16th.