BUSCH: Indianapolis: Jason Keller preview

Jason Keller's strongest part Of the season still to come. CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- The countdown is on for the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, and with just 14 races to go Jason Keller finds himself in the heat of the championship battle. If...

Jason Keller's strongest part Of the season still to come.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- The countdown is on for the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, and with just 14 races to go Jason Keller finds himself in the heat of the championship battle. If strong performances continue for the Albertsons Racing Team, Keller has his best chance in nine years of being crowned the NASCAR Busch Series champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

The final stretch of the season is typically strong for Keller. In 2001 alone, Keller and the Albertsons team had nine top-10 finishes in the final 14 races. They also tallied seven consecutive top 10s from Milwaukee to Michigan in 2001. The team is currently on its way to matching that feat with five straight top 10s since visiting The Milwaukee Mile one month ago.

Looking ahead, some of Keller's strongest tracks and favorite venues are left on the schedule. The Busch Series returns to Indianapolis Raceway Park this week, a track where Keller has two wins, two pole positions and three straight top-five finishes.

"I always look forward to racing at IRP," said Keller. "It's the site of my first Busch Series win, so it will always be a special track to me.

"Whenever I head to Indianapolis, I have a little extra confidence. I know that I can win, but more importantly this team knows how to manage the one-day show to get the most out of the practices and be fully prepared for qualifying and the race."

Skipping ahead in the schedule to Bristol Motor Speedway, Keller is looking to re-gain his dominance by missing the annual barrage of accidents. Keller is a concrete expert, so finishing any further back than fifth is out of the question for the Busch Series veteran.

"Running bad at Bristol and the other concrete tracks is killing me," Keller said. "I really believe the new generation Goodyear tire has hurt me. I used to know exactly what I wanted the car to feel like on the old tires, but I haven't been able to get a handle on it lately. We've still run ok, but not great."

Last, but certainly not least, Keller has two track titles -- Rockingham, Richmond -- to defend from earlier this season. Keller clearly had the dominant car in the second race of the season at North Carolina Speedway. He took over and maintained the lead on lap 124 to win by a margin of 6.208 seconds. His May win in Richmond was his first career victory in 17 starts at the track, a long time favorite of Keller's.

"Richmond has always been my favorite track," said Keller. "I don't know what the sealer is going to do when we get back, and I don't really care. I just love racing at Richmond and I hope we find a way to dominate there.

"At the same time I can't wait to get back to Rockingham. This entire season has been a confidence boost, but that win at Rockingham was the start of it all. I actually hope my competitors are thinking more about that win than I am. It can really play with your head. I know the racetrack changes from spring to fall, so we'll have to go with an open mind about our set up."

What does all this mean to Keller as the season winds down? "When you look at the big picture, I feel like I have a better opportunity than anyone ahead of me," Keller said. "Although my past success builds confidence, we can't make mistakes because that is what will determine the championship. The team that makes the least amount of mistakes will collect the big trophy at the end of the season."

-ppc-

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Series NASCAR XFINITY
Drivers Jason Keller