South Carolina native Jason Keller took part in a press conference this afternoon in the Darlington Raceway infield media center with two-time Busch Series champion Sam Ard to discuss racing at Darlington, the proposed changes to the track and the...
South Carolina native Jason Keller took part in a press conference this afternoon in the Darlington Raceway infield media center with two-time Busch Series champion Sam Ard to discuss racing at Darlington, the proposed changes to the track and the state of the series.
"Here at Darlington, sometimes you're at the mercy of the race track for a list of things this weekend. I've been close to these championships a couple of times and hopefully we can swing it our way this year. We've been second and third, so hopefully we can make it our year. The last couple of weeks, I have to say, at Michigan a couple of weeks ago, we had some pit strategy put us from 30 points behind to 100 points behind."
YOU ATTENDED YOUR FIRST RACE HERE AFTER HAVING BEEN RAINED OUT OF A RACE YOU WERE RUNNING. THAT TURNED OUT TO BE A PRETTY MEMORABLE EVENT.
"Yeah, it was. When Bill won the million dollars, I was in the infield in a camper. This race at Darlington has a special place in my heart. Although it's three hours from home for me, it's still considered South Carolina. I've vacationed down in the low state here all my career and all my life. I've raced go-karts all around this area. I've come close here to winning some races and we've been really, really far away from winning races. We've had both of them. When I come to Darlington I seem to tighten the nuts a little tighter and get up in that seat a little harder. I try my best every week, but some race tracks are more special than others. Here at Darlington, it's extra-special for me and hopefully we can run good this weekend."
AS A SOUTH CAROLINA NATIVE, WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR YOU TO WIN HERE?
"It would be huge. It's great to win on any race track in the Busch Series, but I won in Milwaukee this year and it was great, we celebrated, we got on the airplane and flew home. But, winning closer to your home would be extra-special because I have a lot of family and friends in the grandstands. A lot of the local churches, I've already been informed that they will be here this weekend with the RA program that the race track has. That would be extra-special to me because so many would see me, not just on TV to win the race, but in person with to see what all goes on. I won at Bristol a couple years back, and a lot of local fans there, so it's a little bit extra-special when it's closer to home."
"It's a little easier nowadays. I was with Terry Labonte doing a question-and-answer and someone asked him did he like how it was when he first started or how it was now. He said it's pretty good how it is now, you get on the airplanes and fly home. These guys who did it back when Mr. Ard and these guys won championships; they won it the hard way. I don't think I could drive those cars like you guys did back then. The sport has come a long way and I'm glad to be part it."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT RACING UNDER THE LIGHTS HERE?
"I definitely agree with Mr. Ard. It's probably going to help the racing because we were talking about it earlier, about the race track being so slick. It's extremely tough to get grip. The thing under the lights, you're going to have the fans because they're going to be a lot cooler in the stands; it will be a lot more pleasurable race for them. On the selfish side, it's going to help the drivers as well. It's going to be a lot cooler for us, too. The racing should be better. I don't think you get much better than we had here in the spring. It was a fantastic Busch and Cup race, but I think all around it will be better. They put lights around these race tracks now, and it doesn't look like you're racing at night. There's so much light on the race track it's like you're racing during the day; you can see that well. I think it will be better for the fans and the drivers."
HOW DO YOU THINK THE BUSCH SERIES IS DOING AS A SERIES RIGHT NOW AND IS THERE ANYTHING NASCAR COULD DO TO MAKE IT BETTER?
"I would make sure that anyone competing in the Busch Series that was in the top five in points will be guaranteed a sponsor no matter what. If I was NASCAR, I'm going to lobby NASCAR to work on that deal right there because my ppc Racing teammate is leading and as of last week we were fourth in points, and we're both sponsorless right now. Hopefully NASCAR will push forward and make sure anyone in the top five in points, they'll get a sponsor for."
WITH THE SPONSOR SITUATION AT PPC RACING RIGHT NOW, ARE YOU LOOKING AT OTHER OPPORTUNITIES?
"We're aggressively seeking sponsors at ppc Racing right now. Some great things surfaced this week. I think it was mistaken last week when I got out of the car after I sat on the pole that I had to have a job next year. I hope my job's the same. It's hard for me to vision driving any other a race car but that 57. But, I'm also a realist and a competitor, and Greg and I talked about and if we're going to be in trouble than I need to look around. I'm kinda exploring to see what options, if any, are out there for me, but we're aggressively seeking sponsors at ppc. I would love nothing more than to have 15 more years with Steve Addington; the combination works well. There are so many things that I like there. We'll just have to wait and see, and only time will tell that."
WILL GREG POLLEX BE ABLE TO CARRY HE TEAM WITHOUT SPONSORSHIP?
"I don't think that's even an issue. Greg has been very generous in what he has with the race team, but to ask someone to fields race teams right now without sponsors in the Busch Series is a pretty tall order, especially having the caliber race teams that we have. I don't have a timeline, but hopefully we can get something set up in September, in the next 30 days. I hope we get something locked down this weekend, but I'm not so sure that's going to happen. I talked to Greg this weekend, and I said, 'Hey, this may be the last 10 races that I get to drive so I better buckle up.' You have to do that. It may be one race; it may be 10. We have sponsors for the next 10 races and hopefully we attract someone to come on board with us. I wouldn't put Greg in that situation even if Greg came to me and said, 'Hey, I'll fund this deal out of my pocket.' It wouldn't be fair to Greg. He's like a second dad to me, but I wouldn't do that to Greg."