* Tables turned: Jason Keller now "sage veteran" of NASCAR Busch Series -- at age 35 * Jeff Burton eyes 250th NASCAR Busch Series start; his 21 wins are tied with Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant * Testing ends Thursday; final series test...
* Tables turned: Jason Keller now "sage veteran" of NASCAR Busch Series -- at age 35
* Jeff Burton eyes 250th NASCAR Busch Series start; his 21 wins are tied with Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant
* Testing ends Thursday; final series test scheduled May 8-10 at Lowe'
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 29, 2006) -- Jason Keller (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Dodge) is a quiet presence in the NASCAR Busch Series garage.
His career statistics, however, speak volumes.
One of over 40 drivers testing at Richmond International Raceway this week, Keller is in his 13th full season in the NASCAR Busch Series. He has 10 wins and 11 Busch Poles in 397 career starts.
He also is the all-time leading money winner on the NASCAR Busch Series, and is the only driver to surpass $9 and $10 million in career earnings.
Keller has seven consecutive top-10 finishes in NASCAR Busch Series final championship rankings, one shy of the all-time mark. And at the California fall race on Sept. 2, he stands to break the all-time starts mark of 417 set by Tommy Houston.
Those are veteran's statistics. But Keller is only 35 years old.
"I came into the sport looking at guys like Tommy Houston and Tommy Ellis, a lot of the greats that made this series what it is," Keller said Wednesday. "And I kind of look at it now and chuckle a little bit that these young guys are looking at me like that, like I've got that old guy title, or a veteran anyway.
"But it's nice to be in any category with a Tommy Houston and the greats who made this series what it is. [Guys like] Kenny (Wallace, No. 22 AutoZone Ford) and myself, we've used this series for a long time and it's been good to us. I've been very blessed and fortunate to withstand the test of time and kind of like a cat, land on my feet."
Keller is with a new team this season, driving for James Finch's Phoenix Racing organization. He is 12th in the NASCAR Busch Series driver point standings, only 27 points behind 10th-place Jamie McMurray (No. 64 Top Flite Golf Company Dodge).
Although he has yet to register his first top five or top-10 finish of 2006, he is optimistic about his season, citing the test at Richmond as a major opportunity to gain momentum -- and familiarity.
"We're a new team, and this test is so important to us," Keller said. "We're gaining ground race-by-race, but so many things change that it's difficult to keep up with, making these tests all the more important.
"For instance, the tires have changed from last year to this year, so even though I've run 24 races at Richmond, for example, I'm learning each time I'm on track just like the team is."
Keller, who won at Richmond in the spring 2002 race and also has two poles there, was 24th-fastest in the morning test session on Wednesday, but his 124.121 mph speed was better than two of the top-three times posted during Tuesday's first-day sessions. Tuesday's night session was cancelled after an hour due to rain.
Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Ultimate Chargers Dodge) was the fastest in Wednesday's morning session at 126.086 (21.414 seconds), also the quickest lap of the first four sessions.
This season, NASCAR has set a schedule for when and where each of its national series may test at tracks that host NASCAR events, which are the teams' only opportunities to test at those tracks.
Richmond is the only short track teams can utilize for tests this season. Lowe's Motor Speedway will host the series May 8--10. Daytona International Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway have already held tests.
The three-day session, where teams select two of the three available days to test, ends Thursday.
Thursday's final session is scheduled to run from 9 a.m. -- 9 p.m., weather permitting. Richmond is one of seven tracks the series has raced at since its inception in 1982. This year represents "25 Seasons Running" for the NASCAR Busch Series with series sponsor Anheuser-Busch.
For complete results of the NASCAR Busch Series test sessions at Richmond, log on to www.nascarmedia.com.
Burton solidifies standing in NASCAR Busch Series ... Jeff Burton, who drives both the Nos. 21 and 29 U.S. Coast Guard Chevrolets for Richard Childress Racing in the NASCAR Busch Series, sharing time with points leader Kevin Harvick, is eyeing a milestone when the series returns to Richmond on May 5. The South Boston, Va., native, whose win at Atlanta two weeks ago gave him 21 series victories, tying him with Dale Earnhardt and Harry Gant for sixth on the all-time win list, is scheduled to make his 250th career start at his "home" track. Burton recently signed a deal with Holiday Inn to sponsor 10 races in the No. 29 Chevrolet and is looking forward to debuting that sponsor on his car at Richmond.
"It's real exciting to have Holiday Inn come on board," he said. "Those guys are so hooked up and they're really anticipating getting into motorsports in a big way. I did not know that I was tied with Gant and Earnhardt ... to be mentioned in the same sentence with them is a great honor and privilege to me. It would mean even more to pass them. We'll see if we can ever do that. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the NASCAR Busch Series. I really enjoy running the car, I enjoy the people in the series and I want to contribute to the NASCAR Busch Series, not take away from it. Hopefully we've been able to do that."
Texas Motor Speedway up next following off-week ... Following this week's testing at Richmond, the teams and drivers of the NASCAR Busch Series are off this weekend for the first time since reporting to Daytona for testing in mid-January. Six races, five states and one international destination have been on the schedule in that span. The series returns to action at Texas Motor Speedway on April 8 for the O'Reilly 300. Kasey Kahne is the defending race winner.
What: NASCAR Busch Series testing.
Where: Richmond International Raceway.
Track Layout: Three-quarters mile oval.
When: Tuesday, March 28 -- Thursday., March 30
Who: Aric Almirola, John Andretti, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kyle Busch, Stacy Compton, Chris Cook, Justin Diercks, Carl Edwards, Aaron Fike, David Gilliland, David Green, Mark Green, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Joel Kauffman, Jason Keller, Matt Kenseth, Burney Lamar, Jason Leffler, Ashton Lewis, Jr., Mark McFarland, Paul Menard, Brandon Miller, Ryan Newman, Danny O'Quinn Jr., Steve Park, David Reutimann, Elliott Sadler, Johnny Sauter, Tim Sauter, Regan Smith, Martin Truex Jr., Kenny Wallace, Steve Wallace, Michael Waltrip, Jason White, Jon Wood, J.J. Yeley.