Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Ford, became the second two-time winner of the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, joining fellow Ford driver Jeff Burton in accomplishing that feat. Keller won the 117-lap race, avoiding the multi-car accident on...
Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Ford, became the second two-time winner of the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, joining fellow Ford driver Jeff Burton in accomplishing that feat. Keller won the 117-lap race, avoiding the multi-car accident on lap 16 that involved 27 cars, and left 11 cars on the lead lap. Keller took the lead on lap 68 following a green-flag pit stop on lap 66 and battled Stacy Compton in the closing laps to win his seventh career NASCAR Busch Series race.
JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus (Finished 1st)
"It was a great win for us. We actually had followed the 59 car up to second just before that accident happened and we just cleared traffic. The car was really strong yesterday in Happy Hour and it was really strong early in the race. It was really unfortunate for the fans that they didn't get to see the white knuckle, side-by-side racing that they're used to here. I'm a racer, too, but it made my job a little easier today, but you still want the fans to get a show for their money. It's a little unfortunate for that, but they were going to give a trophy away at the end of the race, no matter if one car finished or 43 cars finished. Fortunate for us, we were able to beat the 59 on that round of pit stops and get in front of him and that made all of the difference in the world."
DID YOU ALL PLAN TO COME IN TOGETHER ON THE GREEN-FLAG PIT STOP? "I was told that we were going to pit that lap before. That's what Steve (Addington) came on the radio and told us, he said we were going to follow the 59 down pit road, and I'm not sure where the miscommunication got to, but as I came off 4 the next lap, he said, 'No matter what, pit.' He said that the 48 was going to follow me down pit road. I'm not sure what all the timing was to go on there, but I knew that we were getting really close to the window that we had to pit. When I heard that the 48 was definitely going to come down pit road with me, it was pretty much a no-brainer. It was really fortunate for us, we were able to get enough speed up and pass the 59 car on the next lap, and that's what won the race. I couldn't pass the 59 car and he couldn't pass me either, so it was just whoever beat who then, and that was just the race. He really tried hard, but it was worked out for us. Luckily for us, I won't say luckily because he didn't have much help. I figured if he could have tag-teamed me there a little bit and had some help behind him, it probably would have been a little bit different story."
WERE YOU AWARE OF STACY FALLING BACK AT THE END OF THE RACE TRYING TO GET A RUN ON YOU? "Definitely. I was aware of everything the rearview mirror could tell me because I don't think I've ever raced as much in the rearview mirror as I did today. Especially when it came down there to at the end. I knew that he was going to try everything, but I knew that the yellow line rule was critical. He couldn't pass me on the inside without going over the yellow line, so I felt that, especially when he didn't have any help, I felt that he was going to have a hard time to get a run on the outside. It's really unfortunate with the amount of cars of that finished, but there again we were running second when the accident happened, so I don't think they can take anything away from us. We were really strong, we just didn't get to see that 10 or 12-car pack for the win. Our superspeedway program has come a long way and I've said all along that I didn't know what to do in that position, I've never been in that position, so it was all new territory for me. I just stayed close to the yellow line and held it wide open."
HOW MUCH OF THE ACCIDENT WERE YOU AWARE OF? "When I looked up off of 2 in the rearview mirror, I saw the 47 car turned sideways. I'm not sure what car started it, or which car got turned first, but the 47 car was what I saw in my rearview mirror at that time. I knew that the race track was going to be pretty well blocked there and as I was about three-quarters of the way down the back straightaway and they told me there was a really bad wreck and the race track was not going to be clear and I had to stop down in 1and 2. At that time, all I could see was smoke in the rearview mirror."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT BLOCKING? "That's just the nature of the beast. When you're restrictor-plate racing, that's what you have to do. If you let a guy get a run on you, he passes you, so I don't think anybody has ever won a restrictor-plate race without doing that; I've never seen one. I'm not a huge supporter of restrictor-plate races, but with a place like this, we have to do it. That's just the nature of it. You have to try not to let him get a run on you and try to keep him behind you."
WAS THERE A SENSE OF RELIEF AFTER THE INCIDENT? "I think they told me 22 (cars were involved), but it was 31? Wow, there were a lot of cars out there, but I didn't know it was that many. I don't want to say relieved because of the 59. I'd be lying to say there was no relief, but everything was close. I didn't think that Compton was going to continue to be strong. He pulled me right up to the front. He was leading, I was second and the 48 car was third when all that happened, and there were still some really strong race cars to race with the rest of the day. It just wasn't the huge packs like we'd been seeing. Yeah, for me, it was a little easier to only race a couple guys instead on 20, but there again, I still think it was hard for me there at the end. I sweated it much at the end with one car behind me as I would have if there were 10 cars behind me. I just tried to get to the checkered flag first, and that's what I did."