When the Busch Series takes the green flag on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Ford Racing will attempt to continue its tradition of excellence at the 1.5-mile oval with some different faces. Ford has won three of the four races held at Texas,...
When the Busch Series takes the green flag on Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway, Ford Racing will attempt to continue its tradition of excellence at the 1.5-mile oval with some different faces. Ford has won three of the four races held at Texas, granted three of those races were won by Mark Martin, but this weekend there will be more Ford drivers than ever competing in the 43-car field. Jeff Burton will be back behind the wheel of the No. 9 Ford, his second start of the season, and rookie Ryan Newman will also be back in the mix looking to add to his sixth-place finish in last weekend's Cheez-It 250. Add that to that talent pool that includes 2000 Busch champion Jeff Green, 2000 Truck champion Greg Biffle, Jason Keller and Elton Sawyer, and Ford has an opportunity to keep its strong tradition of excellence at Texas alive. Jason Keller and Jeff Green, ppc Racing teammates, both finished in the top 11 last year, and Jeff Green has already posted Ford's first victory of the season and has four top-five finishes to his credit.
JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus
YOU WERE STUCK ON THE BACKSTRETCH LAST WEEK AT BRISTOL BUT MANAGED TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE IN THE RACE TO POST AN 11TH-PLACE FINISH. WAS THAT THE PLAN?
"The plan going in was to run a whole lot better in qualifying, but we just seem to be falling a little bit short there. We had some luck go our way early in the race and missed a couple of big wrecks and that got us a little bit of track position. It could have been a whole lot worse, but we could have made it a whole lot better. We just need to go back and do a whole lot better at places like that, places we know we can run good, and we need to capitalize on places like that."
JEFF GREEN SAID THAT HE FOUND SOME THINGS IN ATLANTA THAT HE COULD USE HERE. DO YOU FIND THAT TO BE TRUE?
"I thought we did, too, but we fell a little short yesterday in qualifying and I'm not sure why. I don't know if it's me being a little too timid, you kind of get a trend as you start qualifying bad, you continue to qualify bad. We just need to break out of that and get the right mentality. I think the race cars are there, and yesterday right before qualifying a car blew an oil line off and oiled (Turns) 3 and 4 down a little bit. I don't want to make excuses by any means, but it may be a little lack of confidence on my part. I think the cars are there, we just need to make it happen."
HAS THERE BEEN AN ADJUSTMENT PERIOD TO THE SWITCH TO FORD?
"I don't know if it's driving the Ford, it has a little different balance, but more than anything, it's the new engine package for me. I don't have any Winston Cup experience and a lot of these guys have Truck or Winston Cup experience, and it's definitely a whole lot more horsepower, so that's been the biggest thng for me. I'm getting more and more used to it in race trim, I just have to figure this qualifying thing out."
DOES A TRACK LIKE THIS MAKE IT EASIER TO GET USED TO THE NEW ENGINE PACKAGE AS OPPOSED TO A TRACK LIKE BRISTOL?
"I think so. I felt comfortable all day long yesterday. Unfortunately, comfortable is usually not that fast and we showed that yesterday, but I felt the car was good and balanced and a race track like this is real smooth and nice. We just have a lot of work to do there. I don't think there's anything wrong with the engine package that we've got, we've just got to work hard with it and get the balance."
YOU ALWAYS RUN CONSISTENT AND SEEM TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE. YOU HAD JUST ONE DNF AND ONE WIN LAST YEAR. DOES THAT PROVE THAT CONSISTENCY WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS AND NOT VICTORIES?
"Well, I hope so. My goal coming into this year was to be really consistent at the beginning of the year and not dig ourselves a big hole like we did last year. We were 500 points behind Jeff (Green) by mid-season, and we ended up 600 points behind him and we didn't lose a whole lot of points at the end of year. We just want to stay in this thing all year long. The summer months, for me, are my strongest as far as race tracks that we go to, but we can't give up any now, we need to be right in the thick of this thing going into my strong suit and hopefully we'll be OK."
WERE YOU PUT AT EASE SEEING JEFF WIN AT DARLINGTON, KNOWING THAT WITH ALL THE CHANGES IN THE OFF-SEASON THAT YOU STILL HAD WINNING EQUIPMENT?
"I know that we have the package to win races, and I feel like if we qualified better at Darlington, we would have been right on his heels to be in Victory Lane; I know we drove all the way up to third. I know the package is there to win races, there's no question or doubt in my mind, we just have to put it all together and his (Jeff Green) qualifying has been a little better than mine, so he's putting himself in a position to win races. Right now, we're not putting ourselves in a position to win races and we have to do that. We're putting ourselves in a position to be consistent, but we also want to find Victory Lane."
MARK MARTIN ISN'T HERE THIS WEEKEND.
"To me, he is another competitor, but he has risen the bar in the Series because sometimes you only run as fast as you need to and when that guy's around you have to run as fast as you can. We've got other guys that have replaced him being just as fast. Mark to me, I think he was very good for the Series. A lot of people criticized him for being in the Series, but I think for the notoriety of the Series and in the long-term, it was good for the Series."
WHAT'S GOING TO BE THE KEY TO WINNING TOMORROW?
"It's going to be similar to Bristol. Everybody's car is going to be on the bottom of the race track, so you're going to have to really, really get your car turning good up off the corners and really use a lot of throttle. Goodyear has such a good tire now, a lot of people are getting their cars so balanced, and it's hard to drive by people any more. You have to be smarter than them, maybe use some pit strategy, but you're going to have to be on the mat all day long."
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT SOME OF THE TEAMS THAT ARE GETTING INTO THE RACES, BUT ARE NOT QUITE UP TO SPEED?
"It can pose a problem, but hopefully they will use their heads enough. It's hard, I know that when I started, I would give anything to make a race, to get laps. I don't want to criticize them because I've been in their shoes and as long as they are smart enough to stay out of the way, I don't have a problem with it."