And then there were two: Keller gets shot at 400th career start at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 1, 2006) -- When he made his final start at Rockingham on Oct. 19, 1996, Tommy Houston, one of the greatest...
And then there were two: Keller gets shot at 400th career start at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 1, 2006) -- When he made his final start at Rockingham on Oct. 19, 1996, Tommy Houston, one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR Busch Series history, closed that chapter in the series record book with 417 starts.
Jason Keller (No. 66 Duraflame Ford), then a "veteran" at age 26, had started 71 NASCAR Busch Series races at that same juncture, and finished 13th in the race. Houston, who was involved in an accident, was relegated to 42nd.
Ten years later, the tables have turned. Keller is now mentioned in the same breath as Houston as one of the best drivers in series history.
The only driver to surpass $10 million in winnings, Keller is set to establish another series mark -- his start at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis on Saturday night will be his 400th -- the only driver other than Houston to reach that plateau.
Keller began the 2006 season with Phoenix Racing, but after eight races he was released by the team.
Keller attempted to gain his 400th start at Richmond International Raceway in May compliments of owner Frank Cicci -- a race at which Houston was present to help the track celebrate the 25th anniversary of the NASCAR Busch Series and its association with series sponsor Anheuser-Busch -- but his car had mechanical issues during qualifying and didn't make the show.
Keller was extended the invitation by Clarence Brewer for this week's event to secure that coveted start. This time, there's no question whether he'll be in the race as the No. 66 is one of the top 30 in series owner points (16th), thereby cementing his participation.
"This is a long time coming for the 400th start," Keller said. "It's really special. It's coming at a good race track for me.
"My first win and my only career win with my family-owned team came [at ORP]. It's a great race track. It's a place where I typically run well and I'm going there with high expectations of running well this weekend."
Keller has two wins (1995, '99) and a Busch Pole ('99) to go along with seven top fives and nine top-10 finishes in 12 races at ORP.
Despite not having raced since last June at Nashville, Keller has practiced the No. 66 as a substitute for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series "double-duty" drivers Greg Biffle and Scott Wimmer at Nashville in June, Kentucky and Martinsville, so he's not worried about rust.
"To get to know (crew chief) Newt (Moore) and all of these guys over the past few weeks is a huge help," he said. "Especially coming off a short track like Martinsville -- it should translate into what we're doing this weekend."