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Jun 25, 2013 - 06:33 AM
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2013 Road America: Owen Kelly NASCAR Nationwide Race Recap
Posted by: newsla on Jun 25, 2013 - 06:32 AM
NASCAR News
2013 Road America: Owen Kelly NASCAR Nationwide Race Recap


Date: June 22, 2013
Event: Johnsonville Sausage 200 presented by Menards, Race 14 of 33
Series: NASCAR Nationwide Series
Location: Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. (4.048-mile road course)
Start/Finish: 2nd/4th (Completed 55 of 55 laps)
Winner: AJ Allmendinger of Penske Racing (Ford)

 

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The No. 54 Monster Energy team competed this week with Australian driver Owen Kelly and achieved a fourth-place finish at their first road-course event of the year. It was the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 54 Monster Energy team’s 11th top-five finish in 14 starts this year, which allowed them to maintain first place in the series Owner’s Championship point standings.

The top-five finish wasn’t without its obstacles though and Kelly proved the strength of his road-course racing abilities. The 36-year-old driver and team started the day with optimism when their qualifying lap of 109.044mph placed them second, on the front row, for the start of the scheduled 50-lap event. The qualifying effort could have secured the team their fourth pole of the year if a second qualifying lap would have been run, however they elected to stop at one lap in order to save fuel for the race event, known to produce multiple late-race cautions and green-white-checkered finishes.

The field took the green flag and Kelly kept the second-place spot secure until he made his charge to the front. “Take care of the car,” described crew chief Adam Stevens to his new driver who battled among the top five positions over the course of the first dozen laps. Pole sitter AJ Allmendinger in the No. 22 Ford, remained strong in the lead as Stevens continued, “Owen you’re as good as anyone but the 22 – he has clean air.”

Under green conditions at lap 14, the team pitted for tires and fuel. Kelly maintained his drive, chipping away at the lead and was able to take the top spot for the first time on lap 14. He would lead twice for eight laps, making his way back to the front from laps 19 to 25 after his first scheduled pit stop. “Good job driver, this is what you trained for,” said Stevens to Kelly who maintained the lead but not without adversity from a hard-charging Allmendinger in second place.

Then in an unfortunate twist of fate, the No. 54 machine lost fuel pressure and Kelly was forced to pull the black Camry off the side of the track, causing an event caution period. With the help of an emergency vehicle to push it back around, the Monster Energy machine came to pit road to replenish Sunoco fuel. Quick work by the pit crew would allow the No. 54 to beat the pace car off pit road, keeping them on the lead lap. As the event remained under yellow, Stevens brought his driver down pit road a second time to ‘top off’ the fuel again and to provide fresh Goodyear tires and a chassis adjustment.

When the field took the green flag on lap 32, Kelly and the Monster Energy team were in 30th position. By lap 40 the JGR outfit was back up to 22nd-place, after making another visit to pit road, and by lap 50 Kelly had driven back into the top-ten. “You trained hard here bud, have a lot in the bank and it’s time to use it,” exclaimed Stevens over the radio as final event laps passed. As predicted by the team earlier in the day, the event saw eight caution laps over the final 10 laps of the race, leading to a green-white-checkered restart to determine the winner. Hard charging until the end and not without damage to the black No. 54 Camry, from on-track battles in the last few turns of the course, the Monster Energy Toyota finished the race-extended lap 55 in fourth place.

Kelly told media post event, “It was like WWF wrestling there at the end. Our setup was a little off at the front of the car and having to get back after running out of fuel didn’t help, so to get a top-five finish is good. It keeps my record going.” Kelly has two NASCAR starts on road-course events, both yielding top-five finishes. He will compete again with the No. 54 JGR team at the inaugural Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 on August 17.

The No. 54 Monster Energy team owned by J.D. Gibbs maintains first place in the Owner’s Point standings, now leading the
No. 22 of Roger Penske by 45 points.

Allmendinger won the event, his first Nationwide Series victory in nine series starts. Justin Allgaier, Parker Kligerman, Kelly and Sam Hornish Jr round out the top-five finishers. Kelly's fellow Camry drivers at Joe Gibbs Racing, Brian Vickers, Elliott Sadler and Michael McDowell finished sixth, ninth and 34th respectively.

There were eight caution periods for 16 laps of the race along with 11 lead changes across seven drivers, including Kelly who scored the lead position two times for eight laps.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series competes again on June 28 in the Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway with television broadcast starting at 7 pm EST on ESPN. Kyle Busch will return to the seat of the No. 54 Camry to make his 12th start behind the wheel of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Monster Energy Camry.

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