Road Course Road Rage Hampers CJM Racing's Charge to the Front in Mexico (April 20, 2008) Mexico City, Mex. -- CJM Racing headed international for their very first road course race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this weekend. The No. 11 ...
Road Course Road Rage Hampers CJM Racing's Charge to the Front in Mexico
(April 20, 2008) Mexico City, Mex. -- CJM Racing headed international for their very first road course race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this weekend. The No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet would undergo some minor tweaking throughout the three-day event and the results were impressive up until the on-track aggression and melee consumed Keller and the No. 11 machine. The end result was a 17th place finish and a race car beat up from an 80-lap battle.
The first road course race always brings about some challenges for the 43-cars that enter into Mexico City for the ninth race of the season. The atmosphere is drastically different, the elevation brings challenges both to the crew and the cars, the technique and strategy are completely different from an average oval race track.
The America's Incredible Pizza Company race team overcame all the adversity handed to them. Track activities began Friday afternoon with two back-to-back practice sessions. The team and driver took some time to become acquainted with the 2.9-mile facility and posted the 18th quickest time in first practice; 90.893 seconds. After some minor adjustments and a regained comfort in the race track, Keller went on to post the 11th quickest time in final practice; 89.508 seconds.
The momentum to improve continued as qualifying got underway Saturday morning. The No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet went out on the track and turned a quick lap of 89.119 seconds. The fast lap placed Keller solidly in the field and in the ninth position for Sunday's Corona Mexico 200.
As race time approached, the excitement and fans poured into the international road course. The drivers buckled themselves in just past the one o'clock hour and the green flag waved.
The No. 11 America's Incredible Pizza Company machine held strong in the top-10 for the beginning laps. It was at lap 11 that the field began to cycle in for green flag pit stops. With fuel mileage playing a big factor in the outcome of the race, crew chief Todd Gordon kept Keller out on track and the America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevy lead its first lap of the season on lap 20. Not too long after, Keller came down pit road for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment for a loose handling condition on the right turns.
Cycling back through the field, the No. 11 was displayed in the 18th position on lap 26. Keller reported in, "The car is neutral. I'm comfortable with the car." That statement became apparent as Keller charged to the front and was posted in the 11th position on lap 39.
A quick change in pit strategy after a red flag on lap 40 brought Keller down pit road for a second stop when the field resumed the race. If the race continued its course with caution flags and red flags, the No. 11 could possibly make the remaining laps without another stop. The America's Incredible Pizza Company Chevy received four tires and fuel.
Restarting in the 28th position, Keller gained 13 positions in just four laps. Closing in on the top-10 the charge to the front would be cut short when the No. 11 was bumped from behind by driver David Regan in the No. 6. The spin on the course caused the Goodyear tires to flat spot and would force Keller to pit road on lap 50.
With new tires in place and plenty of fuel, the team settled in for the remaining laps. The aggression on track became more and more apparent as the laps wore on. Tempers flared and drivers were forced off track and over curbs with 20 laps remaining.
On lap 62 the hope of a top-10 finish slowly disappeared as Keller reported in, "I think the "toe" is knocked out." The race car became difficult to maneuver and Keller did his best to keep out of trouble and give the America's Incredible Pizza Company a solid finish. The team crossed the finish line in the 17th position.
"The results haven't shown it but this team has made a significant improvement this season. This was our first road course race together and I have no complaints as to how the team did as a whole. The problems with the car were no fault of ours. With all the beating, banging and the bump from behind it just messed up the race car. There is only so much these cars can handle before things get knocked out of place," Keller stated.