Jason Keller going for broke in championship chase Donnie Neuenberger gets the ride of a lifetime Young Shelby Howard to make NBS debut at Kansas NEWS & NOTES * Keller to give it all he's got ... Jason Keller has experienced the good...
Jason Keller going for broke in championship chase
Donnie Neuenberger gets the ride of a lifetime
Young Shelby Howard to make NBS debut at Kansas
NEWS & NOTES
* Keller to give it all he's got ... Jason Keller has experienced the good and the bad at Kansas Speedway. Keller has qualified fifth for both Kansas NASCAR Busch Series races, finishing fifth in 2001. Last year, however, he failed to finish the Kansas event due to an engine failure.
Keller went into last year's race just 35 points behind Greg Biffle in their battle for the NASCAR Busch Series championship, but came out of the fray 127 down. He never regained the lost ground, and finished the season well off Biffle's points pace.
This time around, Keller is fifth in the standings, 106 points behind leader Brian Vickers with seven races to go in the season. He's not giving up, not by any stretch of the imagination.
"We are going to approach the rest of the season full throttle," Keller said. "We are going to throw caution to the wind and start getting aggressive. We are going to be aggressive on our setups, our pit strategy and on the track. The other four drivers have to points race and be fairly conservative in their decision making, while we have nothing to lose and everything to gain."
Keller is especially confident going into the Kansas event.
"We ran well both times we've raced at Kansas," Keller said. "We just haven't been able to put the finishing touches on the races and take home the trophy. We were leading in 2001 with just 29 laps to go, and the caution waved. We decided to pit and take tires, while the eventual race winner remained on the track. Last year was tough because we were running so well before the engine failed. That's when we took a big hit in the championship chase and never seemed to recover.
"I am looking forward to going back, because I know we can run well at Kansas. So we plan on reconciling the bitter taste left in our mouths from the past two years there. It's still a new track, so one team doesn't have much of an advantage over another. If anyone has an advantage, it's this race team. It's a race that will be won by the team that comes prepared and utilizes their track time wisely."
* Flying high with the DC Air National Guard ... Donnie Neuenberger (No. 52 Jimmy Means Racing Ford) sounded like a kid fresh off a $1 million shopping spree at the toy store. Not many things in life could be more thrilling than that. Except maybe flying in an F-16 during pre-race activities for the Sept. 21 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Dover International Speedway.
Neuenberger became acquainted with a pilot from the DC Air National Guard, who hooked him up with the ride. He went through a three-hour training class the week before the flight. He raced in Dover's NASCAR Busch Series event, and was at Andrews Air Force Base the following morning for an hour-long refresher course.
Amazingly enough, the entire flight lasted only about 35 minutes.
"We took off, and I just had an awesome, awesome time," said Neuenberger, who flew with Lt. Col. Bob Montgomery. "It was so cool. We went out and did some maneuvers. They pulled me about 8, 8.5g. We did a bunch of barrel-rolls, and just all kinds of stuff. Then, we all lined up in formation [for the flyover at Dover].
"When we were on the ground, everybody said, 'You all were late.' We said, 'No ... we were on time. The ground people actually got done early.' We were at the minimum height. We strolled right in there at 1,000 feet."
The day after Dover's NASCAR Winston Cup race, Neuenberger returned the favor and was able to take the pilots for a ride around the facility's one-mile concrete racing surface.
"That was a lot fun," Neuenberger continued. "When you're in the air, you don't have to worry about handling. You really have to worry about where you're at. You've got to keep your perception. I really ran them as hard as that car would run. I pitched the car in the corner, where you could really feel the g. I'd just look over and watch their hands holding that roll bar. Every time they'd squeeze it real hard, I knew I was getting the job done. One of them said when he got out of the car, 'I think I'll stick to flying.'"
* Howard gets big chance with top team ... Shelby Howard is 18, and is about to make his NASCAR Busch Series debut. Life is good.
Howard became the youngest winner in the history of the ARCA division when he won in June at Kansas Speedway, and he'll attempt to make his NASCAR Busch Series debut at the track when he climbs behind the wheel of the No. 43 Curb-Agajanian Motorsports Dodge, sponsored by Dr Pepper and Curb Records.
Dan Glauz will serve as crew chief, and the No. 77 Jasper Motorsports NASCAR Winston Cup crew will perform over-the-wall duties during pit stops.
Howard is also scheduled to run the Oct. 25 NASCAR Busch Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"A lot of people have really stepped up to help make this happen for me," Howard said. "I'm excited about the opportunity to drive the Dr Pepper Dodge. When Mike Curb and Cary Agajanian offered me this chance, I was immediately interested.
"They are proven winners and Kansas is already a favorite of mine, so this will make it even more special."
Agajanian is optimistic about Howard's chances.
"Shelby is very talented and very mature for his age," Agajanian said. "I'm certain he will adapt quickly once he gets in these cars. Busch is a lot different than ARCA in not only the type of car, but in many other aspects. He's ready to make that move, so we wanted to put him in the No. 43 car for a couple of races to give him a head start on next year. This kid will open some eyes."
* Bodine makes landmark start ... Todd Bodine (No. 48 Goulds Pumps Chevrolet) will make the 300th start of his NASCAR Busch Series career in the Mr. Goodcents 300 at Kansas Speedway. Bodine made his first start on the circuit in September 1986 at Martinsville Speedway. He will become the seventh driver to reach the 300-start mark and the fourth this year, joining Tommy Houston, Elton Sawyer, Dale Jarrett, Mike McLaughlin, Randy LaJoie and Jason Keller.
"Everyone here at Team Rensi is excited about the opportunity to see what we can do in Winston Cup. We feel like we have put together a real strong Busch Series team, and now we want to see what we can do in Winston Cup. It's everyone's goal here to eventually run full time in the Winston Cup Series. This will be a good test to see where we stand." -- Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 Team Marines Ford), who will attempt to run both ends of the NASCAR Busch Series-NASCAR Winston Cup double-header at Kansas Speedway for Team Rensi Motorsports.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Greg Biffle (No. 7 Kleenex Chevrolet) is the only driver to score a top five at both Kansas NASCAR Busch Series races. He finished third in 2001 and fourth last year. ... Scott Riggs qualified eighth and finished third in the 2001 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Kansas. ... Jeff Green (No. 92 Herzog Jackson Motorsports Chevrolet) won Kansas' inaugural NASCAR Busch Series event in September 2001, and did not compete last year.
WHAT THEY'RE WRITING
In his brief NASCAR career, Jamie McMurray has made the rounds of hospitality tents and corporate gatherings on behalf of his sponsors. But nothing prepared McMurray for a request last month by his NASCAR Busch Series sponsor, Yellow Transportation. McMurray, now a full-time Winston Cup driver, and David Stremme, who drive the Yellow No. 1 car in McMurray's absence, were summoned to Columbus, Ohio, for the National Truck Drivers Championships. They met with 20 or so Yellow drivers participating in the competition and were asked to make a run on the course in a Yellow big rig. -- Randy Covitz, The Kansas City Star
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Although Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s 26-point advantage over Matt Kenseth with seven races to go in the 1999 season was the closest in the history of the NASCAR Busch Series, it didn't stay that close over the final few weeks. Jeff Green finished second in the standings, 280 points behind Earnhardt Jr., after Kenseth was involved in an accident at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Green, driving at the time for a new team owned by Greg Pollex, failed to qualify for the year's second race when rain washed out time trials.
What: Mr. Goodcents 300 (Race No. 28 of 34 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.
When: Saturday, Oct. 4, 2 p.m. (ET)
Track layout: 1.5-mile paved tri-oval.
Race length: 300 miles/200 laps.
TV: NBC, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday--Practice, 9-11:15 a.m.; Qualifying, 1:30 p.m.; Final practice following conclusion of NASCAR Winston Cup qualifying.