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Keller Falls Victim to Circumstances, Finishes 24th at ORP

Jason Keller
Jason Keller
(July 26, 2008) Indianapolis, Ind. – The America’s Incredible Pizza Company race team did everything in their power to try and bring home another top-five finish this weekend but the odds were working against them. A 28th place qualifying position, a rear tire going flat in the opening laps, a loose handling condition and a late race penalty placed the No. 11 in the 24th position at the end of the evening.

Some would say that ORP is Jason Keller’s track. The veteran driver holds the most impressive statistics out of any active driver at the short track. In 14 starts, Keller has seven top-five and nine top-10 finishes. He has finished every race and has logged 2793 laps around the .68-mile facility. Unfortunately history would not repeat itself this time around.

The America’s Incredible Pizza Company race team unloaded chassis #09 at ORP Friday afternoon for technical inspection. Any on-track action would have to wait till the following day as practice, qualifying and the race were all slated to happen Saturday.

Bright and early Saturday morning 46-teams got to work and started tweaking their race cars. The first practice session got underway at 9 am with the No. 11 America’s Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet posting the eighth quickest time on the board. After a brief break in the schedule, the No. 11 hit the track for the final practice session. Concentrating strictly on race set-up the America’s Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet posted the 28th quickest time out of 45 cars.

Moving on into mid-afternoon, qualifying took place with 46 cars vying for 43 positions. Keller went out 14th and placed the No. 11 machine in the 28th position.

A disappointed yet optimistic Keller remarked, “Of course we’re not happy with where we qualified at. ORP is a tough track to pass at and a good qualifying position is huge here. But all hope is not lost, our car is good and I have experience working in my favor.”

As the Kroger 200 got underway, some concern fell over the race team. Keller started to fall back in the field and after 20 laps he reported in, “I have no rear grip and the nose isn’t turning at all.” Without hesitation crew chief Todd Gordon called Keller to pit road under caution on lap 22. The America’s Incredible Pizza Company pit crew quickly changed four tires, added some Sunoco fuel and made a track bar adjustment to go along with an air pressure adjustment.

After the pit stop, the crew looked over the tires taken off the No. 11. It became apparent right away that the right rear tire was going flat and causing some of the handling woes out on the track.

With the adjustments made and fresh tires, Keller began his climb to the front of the field. At the midway point of the 200-lap event, Keller had gained 11 positions and was running in the 17th position. A quick pit stop was made on lap 101 with a minor air pressure adjustment to help the lack of rear grip. The No. 11 America’s Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet then made its move into the top-15 and was running in the 13th position on lap 142.

The remaining laps would not prove to be favorable for the team. The charge to the front was suddenly halted by an ill-handling race car. Despite two more pit stops for adjustments on laps 145 and 164 the loose handling condition would not turn itself around. To add insult to injury the America’s Incredible Pizza Company race team was penalized for entering pit road too fast on their final pit stop of the day. NASCAR mandated that the No. 11 restart the race at the tail-end of the longest line placing Keller in the 21st position.

Keller fought to hang on in the closing laps and despite the car being a handful; he was able to keep the America’s Incredible Pizza Company Chevrolet on the lead lap and finish out the evening in the 24th position.

“Well it wasn’t one of our best performances but you’ll have days like these from time to time. The only thing you can do is learn from it and move on to the next race,” Keller remarked.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series will head to Montreal for their second international appearance next weekend. Road-course racing action is scheduled to begin Saturday, August 2nd at 3:00 pm (EST) and will air live on ESPN2.

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