RACE: Chris Keller receives RRDC Donohue award

Keller Goes From Karts to SCCA Formula Ford to RRDC'S Mark Donohue Award Chris Keller's rookie start in the Sports Car Club of America's (SCCA) National Championship Runoffs, which determine the Club's annual champions in amateur racing, was...

Keller Goes From Karts to SCCA Formula Ford to RRDC'S Mark Donohue Award

Chris Keller's rookie start in the Sports Car Club of America's (SCCA) National Championship Runoffs, which determine the Club's annual champions in amateur racing, was last October at Heartland Park Topeka.

History says a rookie driver does not compete in National Championship Runoffs in an ultra-competitive and tightly-regulated class like Formula Ford and go home with a championship trophy.

So much for history.

For Keller's performance, the Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) will honor him with its annual Mark Donohue Award on Feb. 21 at the SCCA's National Convention in Las Vegas.

The award, presented by the RRDC for outstanding performance, sportsmanship and competitiveness at the Runoffs, is named for the late Mark Donohue, the American road racing legend and 1967 President of the RRDC.

"Even though I was born a generation too late to see Mark Donohue race, I've read his autobiography," said Keller. "I've taken to heart his engineering-based concept of the 'friction circle.' Understanding that concept and putting it to use in my go karts and now Formula Ford and learning how to tune my cars, has shortened the learning curve."

Keller, of Green Brook, NJ, competed in his first Formula Ford races in 2007, after spending the 1999 -2007 seasons filling a typed page with a list of karting series championships.

"In 2008, the SCCA had a double-National two weeks before the Runoffs," he noted. "I came out for that to learn the track, won both races, and set new qualifying and race lap records."

In the National Championship race, Keller put his Swift DB 6 on the pole, but was passed at the start by both Tonis Kasemets and Tony Coello. He re-passed Coello on the second lap, re-took the lead on lap 14, lost it again, then re-gained it for good on the last lap to win by 0.136 seconds.

"The RRDC is always well-represented at the Runoffs," said RRDC Vice President John Fergus, a six-time Runoffs champion. "We watch as many races as we can from different points on the track and make notes.

"Our observers agreed that in a tough class like Formula Ford, the skill and patience Chris showed -- not making his pass too early and risk getting re-passed -- and the sportsmanship in his driving style, made him an outstanding choice for the award."

The Donohue Award trophy is an engraved glass top mounted on a special, racing-experienced wheel, provided through the efforts of John Heinricy, an 11-time SCCA National Champion and RRDC member. This year's wheel was raced on the Chevrolet Corvette C6-R driven by Johnny O'Connell to his first GT-1 class win in the 2008 12 Hours of Sebring.

RRDC President Bobby Rahal, a Runoffs champion long before he won the Indianapolis 500, emphasized the Mark Donohue Award is "about personal spirit and performance behind the wheel. That's more important for this award than is winning the race. This year Chris Keller excelled at both."

About the Road Racing Drivers Club
The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed in 1952 with a goal to serve the future of road racing by mentoring new drivers on both amateur and professional levels. The Club now has more than 150 active members. The Club's President, Bobby Rahal, is the 1986 Indy 500 winner and is co-owner, with David Letterman, of the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winning team.? Six-time SCCA National Champion John Fergus is the Club's Vice President/Treasurer, and four-time SCCA National Champion Don Knowles is the Secretary. In addition to RRDC members lending their expertise to up-and-coming drivers, the Club presents three annual awards: the Phil Hill Award for rendering outstanding service to road racing; the Mark Donohue Award for personal spirit and performance at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs; and the Bob Akin Award for "speed with style" -- passion, sportsmanship and contribution to motorsports.

-credit: rrdc

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About this article
Series SCCA
Drivers Bobby Rahal , John Heinricy , Phil Hill , John Fergus , Chris Keller , Tonis Kasemets , Bob Akin , Mark Donohue