BUSCH: Atlanta: This Week in Ford Racing - Jason Keller

This Week in Ford Racing October 22, 2002 NASCAR Busch Grand National With four races remaining in the 2002 Busch Series season, the championship has yet to be decided, but it has become a two-way race between Greg Biffle and Jason Keller.  ...

This Week in Ford Racing
October 22, 2002

NASCAR Busch Grand National

With four races remaining in the 2002 Busch Series season, the championship has yet to be decided, but it has become a two-way race between Greg Biffle and Jason Keller.   Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertsons Ford, closed within 105 points of Biffle following last week's race in Memphis.  Now, Keller has to tackle the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, and overcome his struggles this season on the mile-and-a-half venues.  Keller has just one top top-10 finish this season in the seven races held on mile-and-a-half tracks.  Keller shared his thoughts on the championship points race and his approach to the final four races of the season.

JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus

YOU CLOSED THE POINTS GAP TO GREG BIFFLE LAST WEEK IN MEMPHIS.  DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU'RE BACK IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT?  "Greg kinda let us back in the fight after his bad luck at Memphis.  We tested at Atlanta, so I think we should be able to go there and run well.  I still think it's going to be making no mistakes and trying to put more pressure on him.  He still has to make some mistakes for us to get way back in it, but we're definitely back in it mathematically and we just have to put a little pressure on him."

NO DRIVER HAS BEEN ABLE TO RUN AWAY WITH THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS SEASON, A DIFFERENT SCENARIO FROM THE PAST TWO SEASONS.   "No, I look back at what could have been, we had some mechanical failures and were involved, but Greg can also look back at the same thing, what could have been, some accidents, but the record book won't say anything but who won the championship and who finishes second.  It has been a very weird year and we've got to run good these last four races to have any shot, no matter what, we have to beat Greg.  We just have to work hard at all."

ARE YOU TAKING A DIFFERENT APPROACH TO THE LAST FOUR RACES OF THIS SEASON COMPARED TO THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR?  "A little bit, but there again, I know if I finish 10th and he finishes 11th, we haven't done what we need to do.  We just need to go out and get as many points as we can and try to beat the 60 car.  And, usually when you beat the 60 car, you're going to run up front.  The last two races for us haven't been stellar.   We just need to work hard and go forward."

YOU WON FOUR RACES EARLY IN THE SEASON AND LED THE POINTS RACE, FOR A TOTAL OF FIVE RACES, ON FOUR SEPARATE OCCASIONS.  HAS THE INSTABILITY IN THE POINT STANDINGS MADE THIS SEASON SEEM LONGER THAN PAST YEARS?  "It's been a really long year, but there again, as you think about it with only four races to go, I don't want to see it end.  It's been a good year.  We've had a lot of good races, and hopefully we can finish on a positive so the off-season will be pretty good, too."

YOU ARE CLOSING IN ON A GUARANTEED TOP-THREE FINISH IN THE POINTS FOR A THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR, BUT YOU HAVE ACCUMULATED FOUR WINS THIS SEASON, TWO MORE THAN YOUR PREVIOUS SEASON'S BEST.  NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS OVER THE COURSE OF THE LAST FOUR RACES, HAS THIS BEEN A CAREER YEAR FOR YOU?  "On the books it may have been a career year, but I don't think it's going to be quite as fulfilling if we don't win the championship.  We set our goals, we set our goals high and we still are right there where we can attain our goals, and we want to win the championship."

YOU TESTED AT ATLANTA AND CHARLOTTE THIS MONTH TO IMPROVE YOUR MILE-AND-A-HALF PROGRAM.  HAVE THOSE TESTS BEEN SUCCESSFUL?  "Usually when I test I run bad so I don't want to say anything.  We tested at Charlotte and I thought I tested awesome and we didn't do good.  Hopefully the Atlanta test will be better, I really do."

THIS IS THE FIRST TIME THE BUSCH SERIES RACE AT ATLANTA WILL BE HELD IN THE FALL.  AFTER TESTING THERE EARLIER THIS MONTH, HOW DIFFERENT ARE THE TRACK CONDITIONS COMPARED TO THE SPRING?  "I think it changes a lot.  The race track has lost a lot of its grip.  Goodyear is bringing a new left-side tire that we've never run there, so really our notes, we don't have a lot to go off of.  We've got to really use our head when we go back there.  I'm really glad we tested.  I think it should be one of more productive tests because there are so many things different now than before."

WILL THE GROOVE CHANGE WITH THE NEW TIRE COMPOUND?  "The groove is still going to be wide.  I think the groove is still going to move to up to the top; it always does at Atlanta.  With the harder left-side tire it seems that the speeds fall off much faster than in years past.  I think that's just because of the lack of grip, and with that the speeds fall off and the race track gets really slick.  We're just going to have to search around.  You're still going to be doing the 'Atlanta Search,' searching around trying to find grip wherever you can."

YOU ONLY HAVE ONE TOP-FIVE FINISH AT THE MILE-AT-A-HALF VENUES THIS YEAR.  WHAT HAS BEEN THE SOURCE OF YOUR TROUBLE?  "I don't know.  We haven't gotten the right feel on the mile-and-a-half tracks.  I felt there were a few mile-and-a-half tracks that we were going to run good at based on qualifying and practice.  We were actually running real well at Kentucky and broke a motor.  I don't think the stats are exactly true of how we have run, but we haven't run like we'd hoped to run on mile-and-a-half tracks.  We do know that there will be three of them coming up pretty quick.   We've got to get our act together.  I feel very comfortable going into Kansas City, and feel like we can go there and run good."

YOU POSTED FOUR WINS IN THE FIRST 12 RACES OF THE SEASON, BUT WITH THE ATTENTION TURNING TO THE POINTS RACE, HAS THE ATMOSPHERE WITHIN THE TEAM CHANGED? "It's still very loose.  I'm not going to get wrapped up concentrating on the points.  I've said that all along and I'm not going to start now.  This year is already by far the most successful year that I've already had in terms of top-fives, wins and laps led.  We've accomplished so much and I think if we start focusing on one person or the championship, we're going to forget what we need to be doing.  It's still very loose.  We still joke about winning more races.  They're joking, saying that I haven't won all year long because it's been so long since I've won a race that they've forgotten what it's like, so I need to start winning more races.  I think it's just as light as it's always been."

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Drivers Jason Keller , Greg Biffle