BUSCH: Darlington II: Ford - Jason Keller interview

This Week in Ford Racing August 26, 2003 NASCAR Busch Series Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertsons Ford, returns home to his native South Carolina this weekend just 104 points behind teammate Scott Riggs in the NASCAR Busch Series...

This Week in Ford Racing
August 26, 2003

NASCAR Busch Series

Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertsons Ford, returns home to his native South Carolina this weekend just 104 points behind teammate Scott Riggs in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings, but the 33-year-old veteran is more focused on winning at his hometown track than retaking the points lead. Keller has posted six consecutive top-10 finishes at Darlington Raceway with a career-best second-place finish in last year's Labor Day weekend event. Keller, who currently sits fourth in the point standings heading into this weekend's Winn-Dixie 200, spoke about the historical importance of the Labor Day weekend races at Darlington and the points race heading into the final 10 races of the season.

JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus:

YOU'VE POSTED SIX CONSECUTIVE TOP-10 FINISHES AT DARLINGTON AFTER SCORING JUST TWO IN YOUR FIRST 14 STARTS THERE. DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU FINALLY HAVE A HANDLE ON DARLINGTON?

"I've always enjoyed going there. Being from South Carolina, it's always a place I look forward to, but it's a place that I never really knew how to get around, or never felt like I knew what I needed out of a race car. It seems like over the last three times or so, we've been able to get a handle on what I need in a race car. It really doesn't change that much as a race track because wore out is wore out; it's always wore out. Really, the biggest thing is to figure out what you need setup-wise. Ever since we switched to Ford, we've been better there. It seems like the balance in the Ford is what I need there. Maybe we can improve even more this weekend."

RACING AT DARLINGTON THIS WEEKEND, WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE THE POINTS LEAD LEAVING THE TRACK OR THE WIN?

"I go for the win there. I've raced go-karts all around that area and I've raced stock cars all around that area, and as a kid I thought this was so far from something I would be able to do is to race at Darlington. And to go there and not having won there in the past, I go for the win at Darlington. I really can't put into words what it would mean to me. I've always heard about the Pearsons, and I've always heard about the Yarboroughs. Being from South Carolina, you hear those guys that dominated that place, and I put extra emphasis on myself going there, and I know it would mean a lot to me to win there."

WITH THE CHANGE OF DATE FOR THE SECOND DARLINGTON RACE NEXT YEAR, DO YOU FEEL SOUTHERN 500 WILL LOSE SOME OF IT'S LUSTER?

"I didn't want to see them change the date of the race just because there's so much history around the Southern 500 weekend. I'm just glad to see that they didn't lose the second race altogether. 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."

JEFF BURTON DOMINATED LAST YEAR'S 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 races there. We seem to run real consistent, and now with this being our second time there this year with the new body style, 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 wherever he races in a Busch car, but 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."

YOU HAVE HAD LIMITED PRACTICE TIME THE PAST TWO BUSCH SERIES RACES AT DARLINGTON DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER. WITH WINSTON CUP REGULARS COMPETING IN THE COMPANION EVENTS, 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 to have those guys there because we know what level we need to be at. NASCAR has tried to step in and level the playing field by making the Cup drivers have their cars in the inspection line before the start of Happy Hour practice Saturday morning, and that's a step in the right direction. 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. 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."

YOU WERE INFORMED AFTER THE RACE IN MICHIGAN THAT ALBERTSONS WON'T BE RETURNING NEXT YEAR AS A SPONSOR. HAS THAT HAD A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE TEAM?

"It was definitely some bad news that Albertson's will be leaving after the year. We're still committed to winning races and the championship, so that has no effect on what we're trying to do this year. We need to make some noise and make it the right way in the next couple of races to attract a new sponsor next year. If we win some more races and win this championship, that will only help us gain some attention. People want to be associated with champions, so that makes your stock go up, and that what we're focused on for the remainder of this season."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jason Keller