NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona - Day 10 * Green and Keller see opportunities ahead as NASCAR Busch Series turns 25 * Open-wheel star Paul Tracy to make NASCAR debut at Daytona * NASCAR Busch Series testing continues Jan.
NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona - Day 10
* Green and Keller see opportunities ahead as NASCAR Busch Series turns 25
* Open-wheel star Paul Tracy to make NASCAR debut at Daytona
* NASCAR Busch Series testing continues Jan. 21-22 at Daytona and Feb. 6-8 at Las Vegas
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 20, 2006) -- The NASCAR Busch Series got its turn to test at Daytona International Speedway, as NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona continued Friday. Forty-seven drivers, representing 32 teams, turned their first practice laps of the season in preparation for the Feb. 18 Hershey's Kissables 300.
For two of the series' most accomplished veterans, the 2006 season is full of promise and potential.
Jason Keller (No. 1 Miccosukee Resort Dodge) has finished in the top 10 of the NASCAR Busch Series point standings in nine of the past 11 seasons. Keller's 391 career starts, 10 wins, 80 top-five finishes and more than $10.4 million in career winnings place him at or near the top of those key statistical categories.
Keller, the series' all-time money leader, is expected to add another record to his resume by surpassing the series' all-time record of 417 starts, set by Tommy Houston.
"The NASCAR Busch Series has been such a great home for me," said Keller. "To be able to hopefully break the all-time start record this year is going to be nice, and hopefully it's just a sign of things to come. "When you start breaking records, you get a little bit of a different mentality, that you might be to the end [of your career]," said Keller. "But, I'm nowhere close to that. I'm hoping that we can spread this streak out and have a lot more starts."
David Green (No. 27 Kleenex Ford), the 1994 series champion, has compiled an equally impressive resume over the past two decades. Green has logged 356 starts -- more than any active driver besides Keller -- including 22 poles, nine wins and 72 top-five finishes.
Both Green and Keller recorded top-10 finishes in the 2004 season-opener at Daytona and both finished outside the top 20 in the 2005 edition. Both drivers began their careers in a similar fashion, starting on local short tracks and progressing through NASCAR's regional touring series, and have become two of the most familiar faces in the NASCAR Busch Series.
"I like what's going on [in the NASCAR Busch Series] and I'm thankful to have been around long enough here to see the 25 years of Anheuser-Busch being involved," said Green. "Jason [Keller] and I grew up on the short tracks and have been lucky enough that our career paths took us this way. This is the home I want to have until I hang up my helmet."
Keller, who will drive a Dodge for the first time in six years as he debuts with Phoenix Racing, echoed Green's comments.
"There's always going to be a place in this series for guys like myself and David," said Keller. "[The NASCAR Busch Series] is opening itself up to a lot of rookies as well. I think you're going to continue to have a diverse age of drivers, and I don't think you're just going to have a younger series."
Green and Keller have earned respect and the right to enjoy their accomplishments over the years. The upcoming season will be another chapter in their storied careers and an opportunity for Keller, at least, to even the score in one important category.
"[Our] careers mirror each other a lot," said Keller of Green and himself. "But, he's got a championship ring and I don't."
The NASCAR Busch Series will continue preseason testing with a three-day session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Feb. 6-8. The 2006 season -- the 25th anniversary for series sponsor Anheuser-Busch -- begins Feb. 18 at Daytona with the Hershey's Kissables 300 at 1:00 p.m. ET.
It's official: Paul Tracy to make NASCAR debut ... After a year of speculation and anticipation, 2003 Champ Car World Series champion Paul Tracy announced his plans to run five NASCAR Busch Series races in 2006, in the No. 34 Sport Clips Chevrolet owned by Frank Cicci Racing with Jim Kelly. Tracy, a native of Ontario, Canada, will attempt to make his debut at Daytona and then follow up with appearances in Mexico City, Las Vegas, Indianapolis and Fontana, Calif.
On top: Earnhardt Jr. leads Friday morning test session ... During this weekend's NASCAR Busch Series test session, the drivers will venture out on solo runs in the morning, while a close-quarters drafting session will be held each afternoon. On Friday morning, Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted the fastest solo lap, at 183.872 mph (48.947 seconds). Complete lap times from each test session can be accessed by media members at www.nascarmedia.com.
Looking back: Earnhardts top NASCAR Busch Series win list at Daytona ... In 28 NASCAR Busch Series races at Daytona, 13 different drivers have recorded victories. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has the most series wins at Daytona among active drivers, with four wins during the 2002-04 seasons. His father, Dale Earnhardt, is the all-time series win leader at Daytona with seven wins, including the inaugural series race at the track in 1982. Randy LaJoie and Darrell Waltrip are tied for third with three wins each, while Joe Nemechek and Geoffrey Bodine are tied for fifth with two wins each. Other previous NASCAR Busch Series winners at Daytona include Bobby Allison, Steve Grissom, Matt Kenseth, Chad Little, and Mike Wallace. Tony Stewart and two-time series champion Martin Truex Jr. added their names to the win list last season. Tommy Houston set the series qualifying record at Daytona, at 194.389 mph (46.298 seconds) in Feb. 1987.
Fan Fest offers fans Q&As with drivers, entertainment ... On Saturday, fans attending NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona have a final opportunity for an evening of fun at Daytona International Speedway's NEXTEL FANZONE. From 6 -- 9:00 p.m., Fan Fest will feature NASCAR Busch Series driver question and answer sessions, bands, show cars, pit-stop demonstrations, a silent auction and displays. The cost is $10 for Fan Fest. Fans also can watch each day's test session for free, beginning at 9 a.m.
Who: NASCAR Busch Series.
What: NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing for the 2006 Hershey's Kissables 300 on February 18.
Where: Daytona International Speedway.
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.
When: Fri., Jan. 20 -- Sun., Jan. 22 (rain date Mon., Jan 23).
Times: 9 a.m. -- 5 p.m.; one-hour lunch break from Noon -- 1 p.m.