BUSCH: Daytona: Jason Keller preview

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Expectations are high for Jason Keller and the Albertsons team for the 2003 season. After finishing in the top three for the past three years, Keller and the Albertsons team have their sights set on the coveted NASCAR Busch ...

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- Expectations are high for Jason Keller and the Albertsons team for the 2003 season. After finishing in the top three for the past three years, Keller and the Albertsons team have their sights set on the coveted NASCAR Busch Series crown.

"I have never been with a team that is better prepared for a season than the one I am with now," said Keller. "It will be extremely disappointing if we are not a strong contender for the championship all season. We had a great season last year, and our program is much stronger this year."

Keller believes the Albertsons team enters this season with one major advantage over their fiercest competitors- consistency. Keller will return to Daytona for the third consecutive year with the same crew chief, manufacturer, sponsor and team- an advantage only a select few will also possess in the NASCAR Busch Series.

"We had a winning combination last year. With all the key elements in tact for 2003, the consistency should carry over to make this another winning season," said Keller. "Some people believe that change does not effect a driver that much, but I believe it has a huge impact. I am extremely comfortable with my Fords, my team and my sponsor, and that alleviates many of the mental challenges you would normally face heading to Daytona."

Keller has never been more confident heading into the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Keller contributes much of his confidence to the attitudes of the members of the Albertsons team.

"The guys are excited and extremely eager to get the season started," said Keller. "We made some changes in the off-season that will only strengthen this team. We have looked at our strong points and our weaknesses and have set a plan in motion.

"Steve (Addington) has done an incredible job over the winter preparing for the 2003 season. Last year our goal was to win more races and contend for the championship, which we did. I can honestly say I don't see a weak link in our entire racing program."

Keller knows it won't be an easy road to the title. While the Albertson team sat atop the point standings several times last season, Keller learned a significant amount about chasing the title that he will utilize during the 2003 season.

"I've been told you learn more by losing a championship than you do by winning one," said Keller. "I am more mentally prepared now to face a serious championship battle. You discover things during a title chase that you don't learn until you experience it.

"The championship will still go to the team that wins races and makes the least amount of mistakes on and off the track. There are several things you can't control and can't worry about. But if Steve, the team and I do the things I know we are capable of, I truly believe we will be difficult to beat."

Keller and the Albertsons team had their most successful outings at the restrictor-plate races last season. Keller had fourth-place efforts at both Daytona races and captured the win at Talladega. Keller had never captured a top-five finish at either track prior to 2002. The Albertsons team tested at Daytona and Talladega in the off-season to guarantee similar success.

"There is so much out of your control at Daytona," said Keller. "We were very successful last season at the restrictor-place tracks. NASCAR instituted a new shock rule this year that does not allow us to use any of our notes and data from last year, so we felt we needed to go and test.

"Daytona used to be a race that we just wanted to survive and make it to the finish. Now it's a track that we have been successful at and expect nothing less every time we return. I like racing at Daytona because of the prestige that comes with each race. But in the grand scheme of my goals this season, there are only three restrictor-place races and 31 other races that may not carry the same glory, but are worth the same amount of points in the end."

-ppcr-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jason Keller