The love of a father, the admiration of a son: Joe and Jason Keller. CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- They say there is no love greater than that of a father and son. Whoever coined the phrase wrote it with the Keller family in mind. Jason Keller has been...
The love of a father, the admiration of a son: Joe and Jason Keller.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- They say there is no love greater than that of a father and son. Whoever coined the phrase wrote it with the Keller family in mind.
Jason Keller has been competing since June without the one person at the track that has been his rock since his first race... his father. Jason's dad recently underwent back surgery, which kept him away from the track. Joe Keller has only been a cell phone call away for his son, but it just hasn't been the same for either of them.
"It has been very difficult on both of us," said Jason. "It's always nice to have a loved one at the track with you and he's been my biggest supporter from the beginning. No one can take the place of a dad or portray a father figure but a dad.
"I actually think it's been harder on him. He had cable put in his office so he didn't miss a beat of a race on television and a computer installed because he was too impatient to wait for me to call him with the results of qualifying."
Many drivers mention names like Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough and Dale Earnhardt as their heroes in racing, but Jason holds his head high when he calls his dad his hero.
Joe Keller never competed on the top circuits of stock car racing, instead he raced motorcycles. Joe competed in Enduro races through the mountains of the Southeast and was so good Jason wanted to follow in his footsteps. Joe did dabble a bit in dirt cars, but according to Jason he was much better on two wheels.
"I had a motorcycle with training wheels before I even had a bicycle," said Keller. "I wanted to race motorcycles so bad when I was a kid I couldn't stand it. My dad had got so beat up racing motorcycles that he didn't want me to pursue it. So when I was 10 we began racing go-karts locally and formed Kel Racing."
When Jason first got involved in racing it was with his father's blessing and financial backing. The two drove around the South finding success locally in go-karts, then nationally. They followed the natural progression in racing that led Jason to where he is today, in contention for a NASCAR Busch Series championship.
"My dad and I were always on the same page when it came to moving to a new series," said Jason. "When I became the national go-kart champion, we both agreed it was time to move on. He never doubted my ability and he continued to support me through some tough times that only a father would endure.
"When I was younger I tore up a ton of race cars, but dad never gave up on me. My career never got in the way of our relationship even when I hit the age where I thought I knew more than him."
Next weekend the Busch Series heads to Darlington where Jason first witnessed big time auto racing in 1985 at the age of 15. They were on their way to a go-kart race near Darlington when the race was cancelled. Joe made a detour and took his son to Darlington Raceway to see NASCAR's finest instead. They sat in the infield and watched Bill Elliot become the million-dollar man. That moment started their dream of racing in NASCAR.
Jason and his dad hit a high point in their racing relationship in 1995 at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Jason's 63rd start in the NASCAR Busch Series. Jason qualified third on his way to his first career Busch Series victory and the first for Kel Racing.
"I remember that day like it was yesterday," said Jason. "I knew my dad had put his heart and soul into my career and to see him in victory lane was overwhelming. I was like that little kid who hit his first home run and looked over to see his dad in the stands cheering as loud as he could. I still get that feeling every time we stand together in victory lane. It's my way of continually saying thanks.
"That is the reason it is so important to me as a father to be there for my son, little Joe. My father has influenced not just my career, but my life."
Three generations of Keller men will be standing in the infield of Darlington Raceway Saturday morning, waiting to see if Jason will capture the trophy that would mean more to their South Carolina family than winning at Daytona.
Jason will be flanked by his father, who first brought him to Darlington and has guided and supported him throughout his career, and his son, who inspires him everyday to be the best he can be on and off the track. If pure heart can drive men to victory, expect to see the Keller men in victory lane once again.