Career Start 450 for Keller Results in a 16th Place Finish at Richmond (September 7, 2008) Richmond, VA. -- In 450 starts Jason Keller had never encountered a similar situation as the one that presented itself in Richmond. Tropical Storm Hanna...
Career Start 450 for Keller Results in a 16th Place Finish at Richmond
(September 7, 2008) Richmond, VA. -- In 450 starts Jason Keller had never encountered a similar situation as the one that presented itself in Richmond. Tropical Storm Hanna was quickly approaching the Richmond area and instead of "riding" out the storm, NASCAR opted to cancel all events and have the teams come back to Richmond Sunday evening to race. The much anticipated race would have its highs and lows and in the end the America's Incredible Pizza Company race team crossed the finish in the 16th position.
As the 2008 season winds down the stakes keep getting higher. The point's battle is starting to heat up and a top finish every weekend is critical. Keller, the series veteran, is no stranger to the point's situation. He has finished in the top-10 nine times in his career with his best year-end standing coming in 2000 and then again in 2002. This season Keller sits in the 11th position and the goal is to walk across the stage at the awards banquet in November.
"Our focus is to keep improving every weekend and get some consistent results. If we can do that there is no doubt we'll end this season with a solid place in the point standings," remarked Keller.
Enter Richmond, the 28th race of the season. The one-day show started out with an extended practice session Friday morning where the No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet posted the 26th quickest time with a 22.357 second lap, 120.768 mph.
Unfortunately that would be the only track time the NASCAR Nationwide Series would see for the remainder of the day. Tropical Storm Hanna moved into the area sooner than anticipated and just a few minutes before qualifying the rain started to fall. With no hope of the weather letting up, NASCAR would cancel qualifying and line the field up by owner points. The field however would not have an opportunity to race until Sunday evening. The Governor declared the Richmond area in a state of emergency so any race action would have to wait.
Under sunny skies Sunday afternoon, the teams returned to Richmond International Raceway. The skies remained clear and at 7:00 pm 43-cars would get an opportunity to race 250-laps under the lights with the No. 11 machine lined up in the 17th position.
The handling of the America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet became a concern on lap 27 as Keller reported in, "I'm free on entry and need to turn better across the center."
The first of five pit stops was made under caution on lap 31. The America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet received an air pressure adjustment, fuel and four fresh tires. Keller restarted the field in the 15th position and after a few laps reported in that the handling had improved. The No. 11 began to gain some ground and was running in the 12th position when another pit stop was made on lap 97 for similar adjustments.
At the halfway point of the event, the America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet began to tighten up. Crew chief Todd Gordon called Keller to pit road on laps 162 and 206 for adjustments. The No. 11 machine received new tires, fuel, air pressure, track bar and wedge adjustments. The pit stop on lap 206 didn't go as planned and a pit road penalty would force Keller to the tail-end of the longest line and restart the race in the 17th position.
One more stop was made on lap 226 for a track bar adjustment only to help with the lack of rear grip. When the field went green on lap 229 Keller was running in the 18th position. He was able to gain two more positions out on the track to finish out the Sunday night shoot out in the 16th position.
"The car wasn't bad. It just seemed like we fell victim to a lot of different situations with our pit stops and then the handling changing every 40 or 50 laps," Keller stated.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series will enjoy their first "off-weekend" in 16 races this week. On track action will resume on Saturday, September 20th at Dover International Speedway. The Roadloans.com 200 will air live on ESPN2 at 3:00 pm (EST).