BUSCH: Darlington: Jason Keller preview

Event Information -- Event: Diamond Hill Plywood 200; Time and Date: 1:00 p.m. ET, March 20, 2004; Live Coverage: FX (television) at 1:00 p.m. EST and MRN (radio) at 12:30 p.m. EST; Qualifying: March 19, 2004 at 1:30 p.m. EST on SPEED ...

Event Information -- Event: Diamond Hill Plywood 200; Time and Date: 1:00 p.m. ET, March 20, 2004; Live Coverage: FX (television) at 1:00 p.m. EST and MRN (radio) at 12:30 p.m. EST; Qualifying: March 19, 2004 at 1:30 p.m. EST on SPEED Channel

Sweet Home South Carolina -- Jason Keller is one of the few current NASCAR drivers born in South Carolina. Not since Larry Pearson of Spartanburg in 1989, has a South Carolina native run in any of NASCAR's top three racing series -- and Darlington Raceway is only a stone's throw from the local go-kart and dirt tracks where Keller did his early racing. This historic track holds a special place in Keller's heart, making it a place where a victory would be sweeter and a good performance in front of his hometown crowd is essential.

Is She Really 'Too Tough To Tame?' -- Darlington Raceway is one of the most talked about race tracks on the circuit due to its familiar "Darlington stripe." Last year, Keller found this stripe twice, once in Qualifying and again in Happy Hour as he bounced off of the wall in Turn Four. So, how difficult will it be this year to keep that famous white strip off the side of the car with the new safety measures put into place? "The layout of Darlington makes this track unique because of the way you have to drive into each corner differently," Keller said. "I hit the wall twice here last year, so now that the SAFER barriers are in place, it's going to be even more of a challenge to get through the corners."

Resurfacing the Playing Field? -- If you ask Jason Keller how he spent his time off this past weekend, he'll tell you he was on a tractor at the local baseball field. What is a NASCAR driver doing on a tractor at the local baseball diamond? Keller's seven-year-old son, Joe, just finished his championship season of basketball with his Traveler's Rest First Baptist Church. They made it to the Final Championship game, only to lose by a disappointing four points. Now Joe has his eyes set on spring training with the Traveler's Rest Braves baseball team. And who better to bring a tractor out to resurface the field than daddy, Jason Keller. This is the third consecutive year that Keller has volunteered to drive the dump truck loaded with dirt and resurface the field to get ready for baseball season. This might not sound like the most appealing weekend off to the average person, but to Keller, there's nowhere else he'd rather be on his Saturday off.

A Wall's a Wall -- The new SAFER barriers employed at the track this weekend will create an interesting line of racing for 200 laps. With the wall sticking out 26 inches further than it previously did, it will create an even bigger challenge for drivers to stay off of the wall in Turn Four. In the past, there has really only been one racing groove at Darlington, and now the challenge will be getting through that groove with the safety barrier making it even narrower than before. Keller is hoping these new safety measures won't hinder the type of racing style that makes Darlington so exciting for the fans and that he isn't one of the first drivers to test the new safer walls. After all, a wall is still a wall when you hit it at a speed of 150 mph.


Keller on performance at Las Vegas -- "We performed OK. I'm certainly not overjoyed with our performance, but I'm not disappointed either. Our performance on the track and on pit road is there. Once we learn to put all of it together, we will be in good shape. I think people tend to forget that this is a new team of guys working together this year and we still have a lot to learn from one another."

Keller on new Soft Walls at Darlington -- "I commend them for putting in the soft walls, but I just hope it doesn't change the groove and the quality of racing at Darlington. I would never want to discourage anyone from putting in the safer technology, but I do think that there are better places than Darlington that could use it."

Keller on his test at Bristol --"Our test in Bristol was good. We learned a lot about the car and a lot about each other. For us to be where we are this year and to have had the success we've had thus far is great. So much about this team is new and we are continually learning from each other and coming up with better ways to work with one another. We weren't the fastest car at the test, but we're a work in progress. We're in a learning phase right now and it can only make us perform better as the year goes on."


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Drivers Jason Keller