Keeler Scores Career First
NEMA Win at Speedbowl
|Waterford, CT (August 5, 2006):
During the 2006 season, sophomore driver Mike Keeler of Danbury, CT has quietly become one
of NEMA's top competitors. With solid performances each week, it was only a matter of time
before the young man found his way to victory lane. At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday
night, it was loud and clear that Mike Keeler is a winner.
Keeler dueled with the red-hot Nokie Fornoro for much of the race and held off rising
national star Bobby Santos III to score his first career win with NEMA. Keeler took the
lead for the final time from Fornoro with nine laps remaining then fought Santos on a late
race restart to score the victory. Santos, Greg Stoehr, Fornoro and Erica Santos rounded
out the top five. With the victory, Keeler became the sixth different NEMA winner in the
eight races held so far this season.
Keeler quickly jumped from third to the lead over Shane Hammond. In the opening laps, the
man on the move was Fornoro. The veteran came from his 12th place starting spot and into
fourth by lap three.
The battle for the lead erupted when Fornoro overtook Keeler. Not to be outdone, Keeler
rocketed to the inside to recapture the lead. Meanwhile, B. Santos, who also started deep
in the field, was quickly making up ground.
The usually strong Randy Cabral and Ben Seitz were both struggling. Cabral had lost a lap
in the early going and was storming back through the field after a pit stop when an oil
filter seal blew sending Cabral spinning and the caution waving. Seitz later pitted at the
halfway point for service to his mount.
On lap 18 things really got interesting when Santos grabbed the second position from
Fornoro. Santos dogged leader Keeler. He got the opportunity he needed when the caution
flew setting up a restart with only three laps remaining.
Santos lagged back on the restart, getting a good run on the outside. Despite the valiant
effort of Santos, Keeler retained his lead. Over the final laps, Keeler began to pull away
and cruised to his first career NEMA victory.
In victory lane, Keeler thanked his family and crew for sticking by him and Autocraft
Engines for their continued support.
Only days after making his debut in the USAC Silver Crown Series at Indianapolis Raceway
Park, Santos came home to finish second. Greg Stoehr had his best finish since returning
to NEMA full-time with his third-place finish. After suffering from throttle linkage
issues late, Fornoro had to settle for fourth while Erica Santos continues to turn in
strong performances, finishing fifth.
"CARQUEST Presents the Big One" is the next event
on the NEMA schedule. The non-point race will feature the Midgets without wings at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Tuesday, August 15, 2006. The Midget
event will be held in conjunction with the much-anticipated 100-lap PRA Big Car Series
event featuring the former USAC Silver Crown racecars. It is the first-ever visit for
these high-powered racers in New England. CARQUEST has posted a $50,000 bonus for any
driver that can win both the Big Car and Midget events.
The 30-lap, 33-car non-wing event for the Midgets will be sanctioned by NEMA, ARDC and
USAC. The NEMA drivers expected to compete include this week's winner Mike Keeler, Ben
Seitz, Randy Cabral, Bobby and Erica Santos. Bobby Santos III will take his shot at the
bonus as he is entered in both the Midget and PRA events.
For more information on "CARQUEST Presents the Big One" log on to www.staffordspeedway.com.
Feature - Waterford - Sat. 8/5/06
||Robert Santos Jr.
||E. Bridgewater, MA
||Lake Grove, NY
||Dix Hills, NY
||Mike Ordway Jr.