Keller Battles to 20th in Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo Veteran rallies from two laps down for top twenty Sparta, KY (June 16, 2007) ... Jason Keller and the ...
Keller Battles to 20th in Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo
Veteran rallies from two laps down for top twenty
Sparta, KY (June 16, 2007) ... Jason Keller and the #27 Huggies Ford Fusion Racing Team rallied from a early-race two lap deficit to post a 20th-place finish in the Meijer 300 Presented by Oreo at the Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night. The annual visit by the NASCAR Busch Series to the Kentucky track holds special meaning for Brewco Motorsports, Inc. since they are based in Central City, Kentucky, only 150 miles from the 1.5-mile track.
After posting speeds that ranked in the top five during the first practice session on Friday, Keller and the Brewco crew had high hopes for qualifying. Keller would be the 31st driver to make his qualifying run on Saturday afternoon, and responded with a fast lap of 31.117 seconds / 173.539 mph to earn the 24th starting position.
"Loose, real loose," Keller described his qualifying laps. "But, I think we'll be good when the sun goes down and we get into the race."
The early laps of the Meijer 300 found Keller dropping back in the field as the veteran campaigner wanted to let the race "sort out" and settle into a race pace for the long haul. On lap 30, Keller reported to Crew Chief Stewart Cooper that his car was "really loose in the corners, we've got to do something to fix this". On lap 60, Keller was passed by leader Regan Smith to put the Huggies Ford one lap down. With all majority of the field waiting for a caution, a long green flag stint put several contending cars a lap down.
On lap 64, Keller came to the pits under green for four tires, fuel, and air pressure adjustment, and two rounds down on the track bar. Keller would reenter the race in 34th position, two laps down. As the leaders made their green flag stops, the running order began to shuffle. By lap 80, Keller had gained five positions, but reported that his car was "still very loose".
NASCAR officials notified Crew Chief Stewart Cooper that there was a problem with the transponder on Keller's car, and a new one would have to be placed on the car during their next stop. That pit stop came on lap 92 under the fourth caution of the race. After pitting for tires, fuel, and chassis adjustments, Keller came back to pit road on lap 94 for the transponder change. He would restart the race on lap 96 in the 25th position.
After the restart, Keller reported that his Ford was still having handling issues. He told Cooper "I'm having to drive defensively in the turns and we need to do something to get better."
When the next caution waved on lap 99, Keller came to pit road and the Huggies crew made a major adjustment to the rear end, moving it forward. Keller would restart 24th on lap 106.
When caution waved on lap 167, Keller was in position to receive the "lucky dog" award and get one of his two laps back. Restarting in 22nd, Keller was now only one lap down. Charging hard to remain in position to get his other lap back, Keller was rewarded on lap 178 when caution waved again. The veteran would, once again, receive the "lucky dog" and gain his second lap back. Restarting on lap 184, Keller was back on the lead lap in 22nd position. In the final sixteen laps, Keller would work his way past two competitors to earn a 20th-place finish in the Meijer 300.
"Our Huggies Ford Fusion started out loose, and we never really got a hold of it," Keller stated after the race. "It was very hard to drive defensively and race competitive at the same time. The guys kept making adjustments, and at times the car felt better. But, it was a long, tough night."