Keller wins in Loudon, dedicates race to Adam Petty
Updated: Saturday May 12, 2001 7:43 PM
LOUDON, N.H. (AP) -- Jason Keller sped by Busch series points leader Kevin Harvick on the 185th lap Saturday to win the CVS Pharmacy 200, a race that ended in near fisticuffs and tears, but not tragedy.
"I had tears rolling down my cheeks the last 10 laps," Keller said. "I couldn't help but think about Adam. This whole deal, I want to dedicate to Adam."
Keller's emotional victory came one year to the day after Adam Petty was killed while practicing at New Hampshire International Speedway. Then, less than two months later, Kenny Irwin was killed in a crash in the same third turn during practice for a Winston Cup race.
"This was a tough racetrack for me to come back to," said Keller, who finished third last year. "All those emotions were playing through my mind all week. I got to be real good buddies with Adam.
"I know he was looking out for me with that big smile he always had for me. This was a real special race for me."
It was the fifth career Busch series victory for Keller.
To win, he needed a tire change and two caution flags in the last 27 laps.
On the first caution, polesitter Harvick, who led 165 laps on the 1.058-mile track, let Randy Lajoie by to get back on the lead lap. But Harvick stopped Greg Biffle, who came in third in the points, from doing the same thing.
Harvick won the restart from second-place Keller. But after another caution on lap 182, Keller and the lapped car of Biffle beat Harvick to the first turn.
Harvick, with Biffle still to pass, never caught up. Harvick blamed the loss on Biffle, and when the race ended, he confronted Biffle, who finished 11th.
"Harvick wanted a fight afterward," Biffle said.
But track officials intervened.
"All I was trying to do was get back on the lead lap," Biffle said. "He said I cost him the win."
Harvick later said there was "a little bad attitude on the first turn. Things happen. One day he'll be winning a race and we'll be a lap down."
Keller also credited as a key his pit stop during the second caution, when he took on four new tires while Harvick settled for two.
"That was the difference," Keller said of the race to the finish. "Four Goodyear Eagle tires are better than two."
Keller, who started fourth in his Ford, wound up 2.286 seconds ahead of Harvick's Chevrolet to win $70,864. Mike Skinner was third in a Chevy, followed by Jeff Green's Ford and the Chevy of Kenny Wallace.
Keller never led until the final restart, while Green led 16 laps, Wallace two and Biffle one.
Harvick retained his points lead with 1,786. Green remained second with 1,730. Keller moved into third place with 1,647, six more than Biffle.