NASHVILLE, Tenn., May, 11, 2009 – Jason Keller and the Kleenex® Racing team concluded a long and eventful day at Darlington Raceway with a 15th-place finish on Friday in the Diamond Hill Plywood 200. Keller moved into the sixth position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series point standings as the series takes a week off before heading to Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the running of the Carquest Auto Parts 300 on May 23rd.
After being one of the fastest cars early on in practice Friday morning, Keller got loose off of turn-2 and made contact with the wall about half-way through practice. The Kleenex® Racing team was forced to go to the back-up car with just one hour left in practice. With their backs against the wall, the team got the back-up car prepared and cleared inspection with 10 minutes left in practice allowing Keller to make 10 laps around the track and get a feel for the Kleenex® Racing Ford Fusion.
After the team made adjustments to the back-up car and were ready to take to the track for qualifying, rain set in and forced the field to be set by owner’s points. Baker Curb Racing entered the race ranked 11th in owner’s points but because they were in a back-up car were forced to fall to the back of the field before the green flag per NASCAR rules.
By lap six Keller and moved his way all the way to the 27th position and became the first NASCAR Nationwide Series driver to complete 5,000 miles at Darlington Raceway. On lap 10 trouble struck again as Keller radioed to Kleenex® Racing Crew Chief Todd Gordon that he was experiencing problems with the engine. Gordon ordered Keller to remain on the track until the team could take a closer look under the hood during a caution.
When the caution finally flew on lap 42, the No. 27 Kleenex® Racing Ford Fusion had fallen all the way to the 32nd position and was one lap down. Keller brought the car into the pits and after looking under the hood, the team found a loose spark-plug wire. After two stops on pit-road, the crew reconnected the loose spark-plug wire and had the car back on the track in the 28th position.
By lap 100 Keller had advanced all the way into 19th position but remained one lap down. On lap 107 another caution flew and he was awarded the “Lucky Dog” putting him back on the lead lap. The green flew with 27 laps to go and the Kleenex® Racing Ford Fusion in the 17th position.
Keller had picked up two more spots advancing to 15th when a late caution set-up a green-white-checkered finish. Shortly after going back to green another caution flew ending the race and the Kleenex® Racing team had captured another top-15 finish. In ten races this season the team has six top-15 finishes already surpassing their 2008 total of five.
“It seemed like everything that could have gone wrong today did, but the guys kept their composure and battled all day long.” Keller said. “It just goes to show how far this team has come when a 15th is now a bad day compared to last year when a 15th was a great day.”