Jason Keller, driver of the Albertsons Ford, is one of five drivers that has qualified for each of the six Busch Series races held at Texas Motor Speedway since the inaugural event in 1997. Keller shares that distinction with Jeff Burton, Jeff ...
Jason Keller, driver of the Albertsons Ford, is one of five drivers that has qualified for each of the six Busch Series races held at Texas Motor Speedway since the inaugural event in 1997. Keller shares that distinction with Jeff Burton, Jeff Green, Randy LaJoie and Mike McLaughlin, but despite their experience, none of the five have yet to win in Busch Series competition at the 1.5-mile facility. Keller will start tomorrow's race from the eighth position, and hopes to improve upon a career-best sixth-place finish at the track in 1999.
JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus
YOU HAVE COMPETED IN EVERY BUSCH RACE HELD AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY. TALK ABOUT THE EVOLUTION OF THE TRACK. "It's a lot different from when we started. They changed the banking a lot and actually widened the corners a lot. I remember when we first came here; it was really tough to race with. It had a lot of grip like it does now, but the transition on and off the banking was really tough. Although it's fast now, it's a whole lot smoother on the banking and off. I didn't realize that I've been to every one; I guess I have been here a long time. It's still a tough place to race no matter what to do to it though."
SIX OF THE TOP TEN QUALIFIERS FOR TOMORROW'S RACE ARE WINSTON CUP REGULARS. DOES THAT SURPRISE YOU AT A TRACK OF THIS SPEED? "They have a little it more of an advantage at places like this. Their experience kinda shines here, at Charlotte and Atlanta. I don't know why, maybe it's because they run 500-mile races at these places, but it seems like it always shows up here. At places like Homestead and places like that, it doesn't seem to be quite as apparent that the Cup guys are all in the front. We're one of the ones in the top 10 and I think my Busch team is as strong as any Busch team out here and I like to go up against the Cup guys, too. For me, it's a good thing because I get to see how strong my race team is, but for others, it's pretty tough."
A WIN IS A WIN, BUT ARE THE WINS RACING AGAINST THE CUP VETERANS A LITTLE MORE SPECIAL? "Most definitely. There's always a little void when you win one a weekend when there are no Cup guys. When I passed Mark Martin a couple of years ago at Dover, that win to me is probably the most special in my career because there aren't many times that anybody was able to pass that 60 car and I was able to do it."
ARE THE SPEEDS YOU'RE RUNNING THIS WEEKEND A CONCERN? "I can't really tell the difference in speed from last year. I can tell that the track has changed and it's smoother, but the difference in speeds is a little tougher to feel. It's always been fast here, it's always been fast in Kansas City and it's always been fast at some of these new tracks that are like that. It's going to be tough to race here two-wide and that's the thing that is going to bother me the most."
ARE THE PHYSICAL DEMANDS OF RACING AT TEXAS NOTICEABLY DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHER MILE-AND-HALF TRACKS ON THE CIRCUIT? "It's tough, but I keep going back, it's not so much tougher than Kansas City or these other new mile-and-half race tracks. They're all equally difficult in terms of the physical demands that they place on your body. That's just the way the sport is evolving and you better not complain about it; you better accept it and try to do better at it."
WITH BUSCH RACES BEING SHORTER IN LENGTH THAN CUP RACES, CAN THAT BEEN SEEN AS AN ADVANTAGE FOR THE CUP DRIVERS THAT COMPETE IN THE BUSCH SERIES? "It's like a little sprint race to them. It does give them a little bit of an advantage, but there again, I'm willing to test my guys against the best and that's what we have to do. It's not out of the question to beat these Cup guys, it's just that there are only a few Busch teams that can do it and I'm with one of them. We did it in Rockingham earlier in the year, and tomorrow could be no different."
YOU OPTED TO TEST HERE AFTER THE LAS VEGAS RACE. "When you have a track with a new surface a lot of teams will opt to use one of their test sessions. This is typically a race track that I've never run good at, and you have to understand that's another reason we tested here. We wanted to go back and get stronger at some places and this is one that we wanted to focus on. The race tack is different from when we tested because we were one of the earlier ones to test so it's a lot tougher than it was."
HAS THERE BEEN A WIDENING OF THE RACING GROOVE SINCE YOU WERE HERE? "Not yet, but there's still a lot running left to be done today, so hopefully it will widen out, but not yet."
HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE CAN ONE DAY OF PRACTICE MAKE WHEN TEAMS HAVE BEEN TESTING HERE OVER THE COURSE OF THE LAST MONTH? "Probably not as much as we want it to make, but maybe it will widen out a little bit."