KELLER'S PURSUIT OF ELVIS TROPHY ENDS IN THE "HEARTBREAK HOTEL" NASHVILLE, Tenn., Oct., 26, 2009 -- Jason Keller was charging to the front of the field like a hunk of "Burning Love" chasing the coveted Elvis trophy Saturday at Memphis...
KELLER'S PURSUIT OF ELVIS TROPHY ENDS IN THE "HEARTBREAK HOTEL"
NASHVILLE, Tenn., Oct., 26, 2009 -- Jason Keller was charging to the front of the field like a hunk of "Burning Love" chasing the coveted Elvis trophy Saturday at Memphis Motorsports Park when an engine failure landed him in the "Heartbreak Hotel". Keller, who was scored in the 18th position on lap 164, had moved past eventual race winner Brad Keselowski into the fifth position on lap 203, turning in the fastest laps on the track, when an engine failure sent smoke throughout the No. 27 Cottonelle Ford Fusion sending the veteran to the garage after 207 laps.
"Jason had the fastest car on the track and we still had fresh set of tires left for a shootout at the end," Kleenex Racing crew chief Todd Gordon said. "We definitely had a car capable of winning the race and to have the day end like it did is very disappointing for the whole organization."
Keller started the Kroger on Track for the Cure 250 from the 21st position. When the race's first caution occurred on lap 9, he had already made his way up to 12th. During the first 100 laps of the race, the veteran battled a tight car as he settled into top 15 and avoided six early cautions.
As the race reached its middle stages, Keller had made his way to the top 10 but communicated to Gordon that the car was tight and needed to roll through the center better without losing rear grip. When a caution occurred on lap 126, Keller brought the No. 27 Cottonelle Ford Fusion down pit road where The Kleenex Racing crew put four fresh tires on, filled it with gas and made a wedge adjustment.
The next caution occurred on lap 155 with the Greenville, S.C. native running 11th. He communicated to Gordon that the wedge adjustment did not help and still had issues with the center of the corners. Many of the cars running in the top 10 decided to remain on the track but Gordon ordered Keller to pit road for four fresh tires and gas.
Keller restarted the race in 15th on lap 162 but as the field came back up to speed got pinched out of line and fell to 18th. When the race was red-flagged for a caution on the frontstretch on lap 166 he had made his way back up to 15th. As the cars settled into position to go back to green on lap 171, Gordon radioed to Keller, "You're in a good line, you have good tires, go get them!"
The veteran began to march toward the front of the field passing cars nearly every lap. He climbed into the top 10 on lap 182 and continued to move forward as the race approached the final 50 laps. Keller five times registered the fastest lap on the track as he made his way towards the top five cars. Shortly after Keller made his way past Keselowski into fifth on lap 203 and had fourth-place Kyle Busch within striking distance, a puff of smoke came out the back of the No. 27 Cottonelle Ford Fusion. As the smoke began to pour out the car, NASCAR officials black-flagged Keller and ordered him to the pits.
When Keller brought the car down pit road the Kleenex Racing crew began to change tires when they discovered fluid leaking profusely out the bottom of the engine. Gordon instructed Keller to take the car to the garage, where the car would remain for the last 43 laps of the race and finish a disappointing 28th.
Keller, who is eighth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings, and the Kleenex Racing team enjoy a week off before heading to Texas Motor Speedway.