Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertsons Ford, returns home to his native South Carolina this weekend just 78 points behind Greg Biffle in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, but the 32-year-old veteran is more focused on winning at his...
Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertsons Ford, returns home to his native South Carolina this weekend just 78 points behind Greg Biffle in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, but the 32-year-old veteran is more focused on winning at his hometown track than regaining the points lead. In 18 career starts at the 1.366-mile track, Keller has just two top-five finishes, but they have come in the span of the last three races at the egg-shaped raceway, and 11-year Busch Series veteran feels that he is continuing to improve with every race. Keller, who currently sits second in the point standings heading into this weekend's race at Darlington Raceway, is the only driver in the top five in points that has not fallen from the top five all year. Keller spoke about returning to Darlington Raceway and the heated points race between he and Biffle.
JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus
YOU'VE POSTED FOUR CONSECUTIVE TOP-10 FINISHES AT DARLINGTON, AFTER SCORING JUST TWO IN YOUR FIRST 14 STARTS THERE. DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU FINALLY HAVE A HANDLE ON DARLINGTON?
"I've always enjoyed going there. Being from South Carolina, it's always a place I look forward to, but it's a place that I never really knew how to get around, or never felt like I knew what I needed out of a race car. It seems like over the last three times or so, we've been able to handle on what I need in a race car. It really doesn't change that much as a race track because wore out is wore out; it's always wore out. Really, the biggest thing is to figure out what you need setup-wise. Ever since we switched to Ford, we've been better there. It seems like the balance in the Ford is what I need there. Maybe we can improve even more this weekend."
FORD DRIVERS HAVE WON 12 BUSCH SERIES RACES AT DARLINGTON, THE MOST OF ANY MANUFACTURER. IS THE MAKE OF CAR AN ADVANTAGE THERE?
"I think if you look at that place and Rockingham, those places were dominated by Mark Martin. He was driving Fords, but he dominated those places forever in the Busch Series. I do feel like our balance is better with our Fords at those places. For what reason, I don't know. Those places seem to help me with the balance we've got in our cars."
YOU SCORED YOUR FOUR WINS IN THE FIRST 12 RACES OF THE SEASON, AND THE SERIES IS STARTING TO RETURN TO THOSE TRACKS IN THE COMING WEEKS. WHAT DOES THAT DO FOR YOUR FOR CONFIDENCE?
"Any time you go back to a place that you've had success, you have a lot more confidence. I really felt that we let a couple of wins slip away of late; we just haven't been able to capitalize. Really, it was none of our doing. Yeah, I do have a lot of confidence going back to these places. I look forward to the two Darlington races every year, all the time, no matter what. For me, Darlington is an extra-special race track because of where I'm from. To be even racing there is amazing, so to go there and run good, I put a little extra emphasis at that place. Naturally, when I go back to Richmond and places like that that I've won at earlier in the year, we know that we have a good setup for those places and I look forward to going back there as well."
YOU ARE CURRENTLY TRAILING GREG BIFFLE IN POINT STANDINGS 24 RACES INTO THE SEASON, BUT YOU WERE LEADING EARLIER IN THE YEAR. ARE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE BEING THE HUNTER OR THE HUNTED?
"Well, it really doesn't matter, and that's the true answer there. I haven't really thought about the points race. During the race, I don't think about the points race. I think about trying to finish the best we possibly can, and I think that is from the lack of ever being in a really heated points race. That may change with two or three races to go, but I'm just focused on our car, and it wouldn't really matter to me if I had a 100-point lead or was behind 100. As long as I know that our car is the best it can possibly be, and we continue to try to make it better and better every week and maximize our car every week, then we can't control the points. I can't control what Greg Biffle does. I can't control his race team, so I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to try to continue to make our race car better and do the best we can every week."
HOW DO YOU AVOID LETTING THE TALK ABOUT THE POINTS RACE BECOME A DISTRACTION?
"I just block it out. When I get in that race car, I make myself focus on my race car. I look at where he is in practice and I look where he qualifies, but I did that the second race of the season because I know he's competition more than anything. I just block it out. It's a natural question to ask; I don't mind people asking it. It's a natural question. I hope it comes down to the wire. I hope he and I are neck and neck going into Homestead because it would be a good story, but no matter what, I still can't control what he does. I've said all along, all year, that I'm only going to worry about the things that I can control. I can't control his race car, so I'm not going to worry about it. I think we've raced with enough respect that we can race each other on down the stretch."
YOU'VE FINISHED THE PAST TWO SEASONS IN THE TOP THREE IN THE POINTS RACE, BUT THIS YEAR IS THE FIRST TIME THAT YOU'VE REALLY BEEN IN THE THICK OF THE BATTLE. HAVE YOU MADE ANY ADJUSTMENTS ON HOW YOU APPROACH A RACE WEEKEND?
"None really. I, still in my mind, feel like there's a lot of racing left; don't get excited now. I'm not viewing this deal as it almost over, and I'm not viewing it as a two-man race. If Greg and I mess up a couple of times, there are three or four guys that can be there right with us, and I know how quick a couple of bad races can happen. It appears to be a two-man race, but it's not a given. Until we get to Homestead, or maybe even Phoenix, and we say, 'This is what you got to do - you've got to beat him or you've got to finish in this position.' Until it's a definite of what I have to do to be able to help the points or be able to clinch the thing, I'm not really going to focus on that."
RACING AT DARLINGTON THIS WEEKEND, WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE THE POINTS LEAD LEAVING THE TRACK OR THE WIN?
"I go for the win there. I've raced go-karts all around that area and I've raced stock cars all around that area, and as a kid I thought this was so far from something I would be able to do is to race at Darlington. And to go there and not having won there in the past, I go for the win at Darlington. I really can't put into words what it would mean to me. I've always heard about the Pearsons, and I've always heard about the Yarboroughs. Being from South Carolina, you hear those guys that dominated that place, and I put extra emphasis on myself going there, and I know it would mean a lot to me to win there."