BUSCH: Charlotte: Jason Keller preview

Keller up for the challenge of driving against Winston Cup drivers on Saturday. Jason Keller entered 2002 with a new attitude and outlook. His motto for the NASCAR Busch series season has been "don't stress about the things you can't control."...

Keller up for the challenge of driving against Winston Cup drivers on Saturday.

Jason Keller entered 2002 with a new attitude and outlook. His motto for the NASCAR Busch series season has been "don't stress about the things you can't control." Things he considers out of his control include the weather, racing at Bristol and Winston Cup regulars competing in Busch Series races.

While many Busch Series drivers and owners resent Winston Cup regulars competing on Saturday, Keller and the Albertson's team see it as a positive rather than negative.

"I've been competing in the Busch Series for years," said Keller, a nine-year veteran of the Busch Series. "Many of the Winston Cup drivers used the Busch Series as a stepping-stone in their careers. If a driver wants to go Cup racing, they need to know and believe they can run side-by-side and compete with the best in the business. This particular situation gives a Busch driver the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of the very owners they hope to drive for one day."

Not everyone agrees with Keller's view, but he believes sharing the track with Winston Cup competitors doesn't affect the championship and only increases the exposure of the Busch Series.

"The meat of our racing season comes in the summer when we split with the Winston Cup Series," said Keller. "We have 10 stand-alone events where we run head-to-head with the guys vying for the championship.

"What people need to remember is many of the teams sitting in the top 10 have Winston Cup ties. Roush, Hendrick, Childress and Gibbs all have teams competing in the Busch Series and those teams have the same advantages as any Winston Cup driver coming over to compete on Saturday. The key difference is the experience of the driver."

Keller already has four wins this season. Three victories came in races that contained Winston Cup drivers. Keller's dominant win in Rockingham had a host of Winston Cup drivers including Matt Kenseth - currently second in Winston Cup points- Jimmy Spencer and Michael Waltrip. Those wins always seem a little extra special to Keller.

"To this day my win at Dover in 2000 is my favorite victory. Not because it comes with the prestige of winning Daytona or the satisfaction of winning the Bristol night race, but because I passed and held off Mark Martin for the win. Very few drivers can say they passed Martin on the track when he raced the No. 60 in the Busch Series.

"The fans love to see the Winston Cup drivers on Saturday. If it puts fans in the seats and they see me passing their favorite Winston Cup driver, they may just stop and take notice. There is a little bit of image building that goes along with racing against those guys."

At the same time, Keller understands why many teams are frustrated. There was a time when Keller first started Busch racing that his team, owned by his father, would be sent home because Winston Cup drivers occupied those precious starting spots.

"It was difficult to swallow then, but it has made me a better driver today," said Keller. "Once my team got to a point where we could consistently make the races, I was able to learn from those drivers and their experience.

"I'm at a point in my career where I know that I can compete with the best in the Winston Cup Series as well. Week after week my team and I hold our own against the Winston Cup drivers and teams. The Albertson's Ford will consistently finish up front, with or without them in the race."

-ppcr-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Jason Keller , Jimmy Spencer