Keene Wins to Close Out Goodyear Challenge Season by Steve Neely
Moff's Championship Winning Car Looks Like Anything But One
Daniel Keene Jr. climbs out of his race-winning car at Orlando on Friday night. (51 Photos)
Friday night’s running of the FASCAR Goodyear Challenge Late Model 100 was all about a man on a mission. After a series of disappointments this season erased his chances for the championship, Daniel Keene, Jr. suited up at Orlando SpeedWorld with one goal: to show everyone a preview of coming attractions for next year.
Keene, Jr. powered past polesitter Justin Larson on lap 35 and cruised his way to his third victory in the Goodyear Challenge Series in 2007.
“We knew we had a real good car,” said Keene, Jr. “Justin Larson started on the pole and we drew a three for the inversion and started right behind him. I knew that if I could just stay right there on his bumper and if he bobbled, we’d be right there waiting for the opportunity. That’s exactly what happened. He bobbled and we drove underneath him. From there it was clear sailing and it was easy from that point.”
The victory concluded a feast or famine season for Keene, Jr. With the exception of his three wins, he also had several finishes outside of the top 10. Keene, Jr. described some of those tumultuous races.
“I’d say that 90-percent of the tracks that we’ve been to we’ve had the fastest car,” said Keene, Jr. “We just haven’t had all the luck. We started off at Lakeland and set a new track record in the first race of the season, got taken out with two laps to go with a lapped car while leading the race.
“I think the next race at New Smyrna we didn’t do as good as we could have and finished ninth there and that was disappointing. We came here to Orlando (in April) and set fast time here also. The car went away from us during the race. Every track we’ve gone to this year, the car’s been great. Luck just hasn’t always been on our side.”
Keene, Jr. more than made up for it, however, by setting the fast time in qualifying and making a
crafty move to the front in the early stages of the race. He led the final 65 laps of the race and only had to fend off a couple minor challenges on the restarts from Rich Clouser.
Keene, Jr. made sure to thank one person in particular for the victory.
“Thursday night I had my cousin come up here to test the car, seat the new brakes in and all that stuff,” said Keene, Jr. “We came over a little bit early today and the car was good from the get go. We made very minimal changes. The car was just great.”
Notes: Goodyear Challenge Late Model 100
Larson’s Promising Run Ends Prematurely
The turning point in Friday night’s race was on lap 59. On a restart, the field got bunched up off of turn two when the second-place car of Justin Larson spun off of turn two nose-first into the outside wall. Chaos ensued as Doug Moff and A.J. Curreli plowed into Larson’s #88 Skinner’s Nurseries machine, sending Moff flying through the air and causing Curreli’s automobile to ramp up on top of the back end of Larson’s car. Darren Brown also suffered front end damage in the incident.
Keene Jr. was the man and made a statement on Friday night at Orlando.
Thankfully, all the drivers were unhurt. Larson, the winner at Orlando SpeedWorld in the April Goodyear Challenge event, described the incident from his perspective.
“The car was real free in, and of course it makes it tight through the center and then I was free up off,” said Larson. “I was fighting it for most of the day, really. We put tires on it and thought we fixed it. We qualified decent in third, and even in qualifying it was still a little bit free.
Doug Moff's car didn't look much like a championship winning car... but it was, as he was crowned the Goodyear Challenge Series Champion.
Even with the significant damage on Moff’s #46 machine, the team cut away some of the remaining bodywork and sprayed the car with silly string to dress it up before they pushed the car all the way to the frontstretch for the championship photo session after the race.
“We had good luck all year long, and this was the first really bad luck we had all year,” said Moff. “I guess when we do it, we do it right. It’s a shame because the car’s hurt pretty good, but we’ll fix it.”
Moff took a moment to reflect on his championship season, and compare that to the expectations the team had before the 2007 season started.
“When we started running this series we really didn’t know,” said Moff. “We hadn’t run any of these races before. We had won a couple track championships at Desoto, but a lot of these tracks, we had never run a limited car on, so I was really happy to run as good as we did.”
Another Perspective on the Big Wreck
A.J. Curreli was an innocent victim in the race’s big wreck. Curreli had moved up to fourth and was riding behind Larson and Moff when he was collected in the incident. Curreli was understandably disappointed in the end of his season in the Goodyear Challenge Series.
“This is not the way it’s supposed to happen, that’s for sure,” said Curreli. “We’re running fourth, and Larson was running second and I think he got into the wall. He kind of got loose off of turn two and I was on Moff’s tail and Moff was on Larson’s tail, and it was just a chain reaction thing.
“I was going to go low, since they were up high, but then I hit Moff and the next thing I know, I was on top of Larson. Thank God for my Hamke chassis; it didn’t even bend the front clip and we went out there to run ten more laps to gain some more spots. I guess he got loose and it was just a chain reaction thing, and we got no nose now.”
“We went out there and started on the pole after the redraw, and I got out there and led maybe 15 or 20 laps or so. It just kept getting worse and worse, and then it got really loose and I overcorrected and went back and hit the wall, then came back across the track and collected a couple other cars.”
The substantial body damage on Larson’s car put him out of the race, and he was relegated to a 13th place finish.
Now Moff’s Just Showing Off
The FASCAR Goodyear Challenge Series crowned Doug Moff as its champion for 2007 after the race, but the car sure didn’t look like it was worthy of such an honor.
Moff was collected in the night’s biggest wreck just past halfway. He caused quite a scare for the fans that showed up at Orlando SpeedWorld, as he provided an
unintentional aerial acrobatics show for them. Moff’s car launched over Larson’s, causing it to helicopter around sideways in midair, before sliding on its side through the grassy infield.
“We didn’t go all the way over, I don’t believe,” said Moff. “I did see sky and some asphalt, though. We were following the #88 car, Justin, there in front of us, and he got loose coming off the corner. He had done it about three laps before, so it really didn’t scare me. He saved it each time, but this time he didn’t save it. He just got out of it, he got crossed up, and I came in there wide open. I got hit in the back about the same time I hit him and it was just a free for all from there.”
Justin Larson's car looked worse for wear on Friday night.