BUSCH: Darlington: Ford - Jason Keller interivew

This Week in Ford Racing March 11, 2003 NASCAR Busch Grand National Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Taurus, has rebounded from 27th-place finish at the season-opening event at Daytona to put together a string of two fifth-place finishes, a...

This Week in Ford Racing
March 11, 2003

NASCAR Busch Grand National

Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Taurus, has rebounded from 27th-place finish at the season-opening event at Daytona to put together a string of two fifth-place finishes, a move that has allowed him to vault into fifth place in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings. Keller, a South Carolina native, is the one of only two full-time Busch Series drivers in the top-five in the points standing as the series heads to Darlington Raceway for this weekend's DarlingtonRaceway.com 200. Keller spoke about his season to date following testing at Nashville Superspeedway on Monday.

JASON KELLER -57-Albertsons Ford Taurus:

THE BUSCH SERIES DID NOT COMPETE LAST WEEKEND. DOES AN OFF-WEEKEND THREE RACES INTO THE SEASON HELP YOU EVALUATE HOW YOUR SEASON IS PROGRESSING? "It does, especially with us testing here at Nashville. It's important because we got thinking about it and we haven't had a full practice day yet with our new downforce cars with the 2003 bodies. It's nice to have a weekend off so everybody could recuperate and recover, and it helped me out a lot from Daytona and this test here in Nashville is only going to spill over and help us in Darlington."

ARE YOU HAVING A TOUGH TIME ADJUSTING TO THE NUISANCES OF THE NEW BODY STYLE? "There were just some unknowns. I think we adapted well because we've really used a lot of our 2002 notes and we ran great at Las Vegas even after having to change a motor and going to the back; we drove right up to the front. All in all, this year has gone how I had hoped it would. I had hoped that we would run up front every week and we've done that. We got caught up in an accident at Daytona, but that wasn't anything of our doing. We did everything right, and we've rebounded and it feels good."

WITH THE WEEK OFF, HAVE YOUR RIBS FULLY HEALED FROM THE INCIDENT AT DAYTONA? "They're tender, but they're better than they were, that's for sure."

YOU ARE CURRENTLY FIFTH IN THE POINTS, BUT THREE OF THE FOUR DRIVERS AHEAD OF YOU IN THE STANDINGS AREN'T COMPETING FULL-TIME THIS YEAR. IS THAT IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND, AND DO YOU REALLY SEE YOURSELF AS SECOND IN THE POINTS? "I'm glad that we're running consistent. I think it's too early to count points. You can get yourself way behind, and as long as we are not way behind, I think we'll be just fine. We just need to continue to do what we're doing and those two top-fives of late have really helped that. It's really due to all of the hard work that we did in the off-season; it's really paying off. The guys are having great pit stops and they're preparing great cars, and with that combination, it's really working well for us."

YOU HAVE HAD LIMITED PRACTICE TIME THE PAST TWO BUSCH SERIES RACES DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER. WITH WINSTON CUP REGULARS COMPETING IN THE EARLY-SEASON RACES, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE BEEN HANDICAPPED WITH A LACK OF PRACTICE? "I think it puts us at a disadvantage, but it helps us because we know what level we need to be at. Now, when you go to a place like Las Vegas, and our hour of practice is at night and the Winston Cup guys get an hour and a half of practice on Saturday morning, I think it puts us at a disadvantage. I think that disadvantage is going to be there because of scheduling. Do I like that disadvantage? No, I don't, but that's why I think it's so important for us to test. We really worked a lot on our superspeedway stuff this winter and this is our first downforce test, so I think, all in all, our season has been going extremely well so far. I think we're only going to continue to get better. The more we test, the more we feel like we can get a balance of the 2003 Ford, and I think it's only going to get better and better."

JEFF BURTON HAS DOMINATED THE PAST FEW BUSCH SERIES RACES AT DARLINGTON, BUT WITH HIS ABSENCE IN THE RACE THIS WEEKEND, DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A SHOT TO WIN THE RACE? "I definitely do. We've had a lot of top-fives the last four or five race there. We seem to run real consistent, and now with us testing, hopefully our bodies are a little bit better than they were; we just need to work hard at it. He's not easy to beat. He's got his act together there, but he can be beat, and we wanted to be the ones to beat him. Darlington is extremely important to me because of where it's located in South Carolina. I've always vacationed around the low country of South Carolina. I've always dreamed about winning at Darlington and hopefully we can do that this weekend."

THERE HAS BEEN TALK ABOUT CHANGES IN THE 2004 SCHEDULE, WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF SOME VENUES LOSING A DATE. AS A NATIVE SOUTH CAROLINIAN, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO RACE AT DARLINGTON TWICE A YEAR? "I don't want to see it; that's for sure. We used to race a couple of times in the state. We used to race at Myrtle Beach and a couple of times at Darlington. Those types of tracks are going away, but that's kind of the way the series and the sport is going right now. They're going to these bigger markets and these bigger markets seem to sell out more often. We'll just take it as it comes and we'll enjoy it as it is. Right now, we have two races at Darlington that we're focused on winning. I get so pumped up and so focused at all of the tracks, but for Darlington, there's a little something extra for me, extra incentive. And when you go to a place with a positive mindset, that's always important."

TALK ABOUT THE NEW 2003 BODY STYLE. WITH ADDED FRONT DOWNFORCE, DO YOU BELIEVE THE AERO-PUSH ISSUE WILL BE SOLVED? "I don't know if we've gotten ours out yet because at Vegas I think we did extremely well for what we had in limited practice. I think it's going to help to get that out of it. I think it's going to have more downforce on the front end, but at a place like Nashville, where we're testing by ourselves, it hard to know what it's going to do in traffic. We'll try to get some tendencies of the car and we did that today and we'll do it again tomorrow, and hopefully we'll learn from that and be able to go to Darlington. You can't run the same setup at Darlington that you do at Nashville, but we're trying to gain tendencies. We've got all of our engineers here and a lot of computer data on these cars and just trying to learn tendencies more than anything."

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Drivers Jason Keller