This Week in Ford Racing October 4, 2005 NASCAR Busch Series Jason Keller, driver of the No. 35 Taurus, has been fighting for a spot in the top 10 of the Busch Series point standings all season, and with six races remaining in...
This Week in Ford Racing
October 4, 2005
NASCAR Busch Series
Jason Keller, driver of the No. 35 Taurus, has been fighting for a spot in the top 10 of the Busch Series point standings all season, and with six races remaining in the season, he is currently 10th. Keller, who has not finished outside the top 10 in points since 1998, discussed various topics, including the need for the Chase format in the Busch Series and the loss of standalone races in 2006.
JASON KELLER-No. 35-McDonald's Ford Taurus
DO YOU FEEL THAT THE BUSCH SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE HAS BEEN SOMEWHAT LOST THIS SEASON? "I think so. I think everybody is focusing on the chase for the Cup, which is exciting. You hear all of the rumors; maybe the Busch Series is going to that type of format. Right now we have two guys that are in the battle for the Busch championship. It sure would be nice to have about 10 of us in there, but maybe they'll look into that."
DO YOU THINK THE CHASE FORMAT WOULD BE BENEFICIAL FOR THE BUSCH SERIES? "Definitely. The excitement that the Cup Series is seeing is pretty amazing. Now, if I was one of the two guys leading the points in the Busch Series I wouldn't want eight other competitors coming in there, but I think for the excitement of what we need to see that it would be good for us."
FULL-TIME NEXTEL CUP COMPETITORS HAVE WON THE PAST SIX BUSCH RACES. IS THEIR PRESENCE DIMINISHING THE IDENTITY OF THE BUSCH SERIES? "They're definitely taking a lot away, but it is our job to compete with these guys and do it the best way we know how. I'm not complaining that they're there, but it is a tougher competition now than it was without these guys. We were comparing 2003 with 2005 at the shop, and we compared two races - Kentucky and Chicago - and the number of Busch teams that are Cup affiliated and it was huge, the numbers now versus two years ago. We've always talked about the Buschwhackers because you've always had Mark Martin and Jeff Burton and those likes. But if you compare those two races, and we compared Kentucky because Kentucky is a standalone event, and the numbers were huge. Two years ago you had zero Cup drivers running that race and this year I think we had five, which is a large amount different. I think two years ago you had five teams that were Cup affiliated and this year you had 13. That's in a non-companion race. Chicago was the same way. Two years ago you had four Cup drivers and this year you had 18. So, the numbers are getting larger and larger and it's our job to do everything we can with all of the support we have to try to compete with these guys."
IT WAS ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK THAT THE STANDALONE BUSCH SERIES RACE AT PIKES PEAK WILL BE RELOCATED TO MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY NEXT SEASON. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS OF TAKING AWAY THE STANDALONE RACE TO MAKE A COMPANION EVENT WITH NEXTEL CUP? "It was always nice going to Pikes Peak because we were always the show out there, but we all knew that it wouldn't survive long because there wasn't a lot of support out there. We never filled the stands and you know that you can't continue with that. How do I feel about that? I don't like taking standalone events off the schedule. It's not that I don't like Martinsville, because I do like racing there. It's been a long time since I've run there, but I enjoy that track. It's just that we need to continue to have some standalone events to give the Busch Series any sense of identity. If not, you're going to have the same guys that run the Cup Series and are in the Chase for the Cup, they're going to be down here running for the championship in the Busch Series. I don't want to give anyone the perception that I'm complaining because I'm not; it's the true facts. I'm not complaining about it, but I honestly think that we still need some sense of identity that we are a separate series and we're not just a series that runs on a Saturday for the Cup guys."
TEAM RENSI IS A BUSCH-ONLY ORGANIZATION, AND IT HAS TWO DRIVERS IN THE TOP 12 IN POINTS. HOW IS THAT ORGANIZATION ABLE TO SUCCESSFULLY COMPETE WITH CUP-AFFILIATED ORIGINATIONS? "It's just been such a growing year for us, and I don't think we've done the job we needed to do. We started out with absolutely nothing in January and we were just trying to get to each race the best way we possibly could. It has worked out that Ashton Lewis and I have worked well together, and the 25 and 35 work well together. You always plan that, but you never know until you get into it. It just kind of worked and that's the way it is. We feel there is so much more we can do if we're prepared and that's what we're trying to do and be a little bit more prepared."
DO YOU PLAN TO RETURN TO TEAM RENSI AND THE NO. 35 FORD NEXT SEASON? "We're in discussions right now to talk about next year. We have deadlines for each other, but I don't foresee any catastrophic change or anything, but you never know. We are in discussions for next year."