AP Photo/Ed Reinke
Jason Keller, rear, battles Joey Logano in the June 14 Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway.
didn't have to wait until the offseason to finalize his new plans, as he'll debut with Baker Curb Racing this weekend at Dover International Speedway.
Midway through the summer, Keller had hoped he'd remain with CJM Racing, a team he'd been helping to build from scratch. The independent team wasn't guaranteed to run beyond the first 10 Nationwide Series races this year, but a multiyear agreement with America's Incredible Pizza Co. has allowed it to run the entire 2008 campaign.
And when it was announced the team had forged a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing that meant the team would switch to Toyotas next year, the future appeared bright. Keller, though, recently learned that CJM was going in a different direction next year and his services wouldn't be required.
Hence the move to Baker Curb, a team that has struggled this season after moving from Central City, Ky., to Nashville, Tenn., over the offseason. Initially planned to be a two-car effort, the team scaled back to one car when funding couldn't be secured for the No. 37.
spent most of the year with the team, leaving after Watkins Glen for what he'd hoped would be a Sprint Cup Series ride for the rest of the year with Hall of Fame Racing. Since then, David Gilliland
, Burney Lamar
and Casey Atwood
have spent time behind the wheel of the No. 27 Ford.
Now the seat is Keller's for the rest of this season and 2009. Scott Lagasse
Jr. is on NASCAR's entry list under the CJM Racing entry for this week at Dover. A team spokesperson said the team hoped to be able to announce its plans by Wednesday.
Given its forthcoming alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, it's possible the team could use a combination of JGR Cup drivers next year, or possibly turn to Marc Davis
, who is part of JGR's driver development program. Or, depending on how Silly Season shakes out, it could turn to a veteran driver locked out of the Cup Series.
Keller's just grateful to have something lined up earlier than this time last year, when he headed into the season with an uncertain future.
"I am very thankful that Gary Baker
and Mike Curb have given me this opportunity," Keller said. "It is also a wonderful opportunity to represent such a first-class company like Kimberly-Clark and their family of brands. Baker Curb Racing has some great guys working on their cars, and I am excited about working with them in 2008 as we build the program for a strong 2009 season."
With 10 wins in a Nationwide Series-record 450 starts, Keller brings the experience to Baker Curb that helped build a foundation for a CJM organization trying to recapture the winning ways it had under former owner Clarence Brewer.
"I was in attendance at O'Reilly Raceway Park when Jason notched his first victory in the Nationwide Series," co-owner Mike Curb said. "Watching his consistency through the years, Jason brings a combination of talent and experience that takes our team to the next level."
"What Jason brings to the Baker Curb team is a veteran with success," co-owner Gary Baker said. "He has a solid reputation and is respected on and off the track. He is one of the most successful drivers in the Nationwide Series, and having him behind the wheel of the No. 27 Kleenex Ford Fusion will help strengthen our team and push us in the development of our cars and technology."
Mark Ashenfelter is an editor at ESPN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.