CHRIS KELLER MAKES AN IMPRESSION AT THE SCCA NATIONAL CONVENTION Keller receives the prestigious SCCA Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year Award and the coveted RRDC Mark Donohue Award (Las Vegas, NV) -- Chris Keller is certainly well known in ...
CHRIS KELLER MAKES AN IMPRESSION AT THE SCCA NATIONAL CONVENTION
Keller receives the prestigious SCCA Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year Award and the coveted RRDC Mark Donohue Award
(Las Vegas, NV) -- Chris Keller is certainly well known in open-wheel auto racing circles. But his notoriety just skyrocketed with this past weekend's SCCA National Convention in Las Vegas. Keller received two of the top awards of the day; the SCCA Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year Award, named after the 1970 National SCCA Champion, and the highly coveted Mark Donohue Award, presented by the Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC).
"When they started talking about 'a karter who had 10 years of experience who was set to win the Rookie of the Year Award,' I was thinking that there was no one else that could fit that description, so it started to hit me that I might get that award. I walked up on stage and was, obviously, extremely surprised to receive that honor. I thank the SCCA for being so welcoming to me as a new member, and I promise I'll be an eternal spokesperson and supporter of their Club. There's probably no better way to start off a season than a winning this amazing award!
"The Formula Ford Series is an excellent training ground for any type of formula racing that teaches maximizing the mechanical grip of the car without any help from aero, which is a skill you'll need forever in open-wheel racing, and one I hope to utilize as I pursue a career in IndyCar racing or Formula One."
The Mark Donohue Award is given by the RRDC for outstanding performance, sportsmanship and competitiveness during the SCCA Runoffs, which determine the Club's annual champions in amateur racing. The award 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.
"Mark Donohue is definitely one of the top road racers of all time, and to have my name mentioned in the same breath as his is really an honor and a privilege," Keller said with respect to the heroes of the sport.
The 20-year-old Keller, of Green Brook, NJ, competed in his first Formula Ford races in 2007, after spending the 1999 -2007 seasons filling a page with a list of karting series championships.
Keller's championship performance in the Formula Ford class during last October's event at Heartland Park Topeka (KS) had never been accomplished by a rookie in previous SCCA seasons.
"In 2008, the SCCA had a double-National two weeks before the Runoffs," he noted. "I came out for that to learn the track, but ended up winning both races and setting 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.
Keller impressed everyone who was there to witness those magic moments, including RRDC Vice President John Fergus, a six-time Runoffs champion. "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," stated Fergus.
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."