Thunder Valley success stories: Keller, Wallace look for late-season surge at Bristol DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 23, 2005) -- They're far from old high school teammates exchanging stories of past athletic glory, but Jason Keller (No. 35 ...
Thunder Valley success stories: Keller, Wallace look for late-season surge at Bristol
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 23, 2005) -- They're far from old high school teammates exchanging stories of past athletic glory, but Jason Keller (No. 35 McDonald's Ford) and Kenny Wallace (No. 22 AutoZone Ford) certainly wouldn't mind living in the past Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Wallace is the all-time leader in top-10 NASCAR Busch Series finishes -- 17 -- at the shortest track on the schedule. The last came in this event in 2002 when he finished sixth. His last win on the .533-mile surface came in 1994.
Keller is tied for the all-time lead in Busch Poles at Bristol with three. He has 12 top-10 finishes and has a win in the 1999 Bristol spring race.
And both drivers could use a big finish to put exclamation marks on their seasons.
Keller is 12th in the series point standings, only 36 points behind Team Rensi Motorsports teammate Ashton Lewis Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford) who is 10th. One of the stalwarts of the NASCAR Busch Series, Keller has finished in the top 10 in the point standings eight times in his 12-year career, including the last six in succession.
"Driving up to Bristol has always been special to me, [and] I can't believe I've made that drive 25 times now," Keller said. "I've been lucky over the years to have a couple of 'perfect' race cars at Bristol. We need a win for our McDonald's team right now [and] Bristol would be an ideal location for us. We've worked hard all year to build this new team; a lot of people don't realize that we didn't start until the first week of January."
Keller's 14th-place finish last Saturday at Michigan propelled him past the $10-million mark in NASCAR Busch Series career winnings; the first driver to do so. He is third in series history with 381 starts and is 11 races shy of tying Elton Sawyer for second in that catagory. Keller could bypass leader Tommy Houston (417) this time next season. He is in the midst of a series-best, 260-race starting streak, dating back to September 1997 at Richmond.
Bristol could be the perfect elixir for Wallace's current mini-slump. Still fifth in the point standings -- since Dover -- Wallace has finished 18th or worse in four of his last seven races, allowing Raybestos rookie Denny Hamlin (No. 20 Rockwell Automation Chevrolet) to move within 25 points of his ranking.
He has seven top-10 championship finishes in nine fulltime seasons, but hasn't been in the top five since finishing fourth in 1994.
Wallace has thrived at Bristol, posting nine consecutive top-10 finishes -- including five top fives -- between 1996 and 2002.
"I've loved Bristol from the first time I ever went there," Wallace said. "It is the most exciting atmosphere that creates a happening, not just a race. From the people that line the streets for the parade, to the people camping as far as you can see, all the way up until the time they wave the green flag, it is truly a happening. The night race at Bristol is definitely the best race in NASCAR competition.
"I haven't run the way that I've wanted to the past few races at Bristol, but I keep reminding myself that I hold the record for the most top 10s in NASCAR Busch Series competition [there]. Our goal this weekend is to take what we've learned from the last few times that we've raced at Bristol and improve on that."