BUSCH: Las Vegas: News of note, schedule

Keller to pass historic milestone at Vegas NEWS & NOTES * Keller set to pass Jarrett for third in career starts ... Jason Keller (No. 22 Miller High Life Ford) is slated to make the 325th start of his NASCAR Busch Series career in the...

Keller to pass historic milestone at Vegas


* Keller set to pass Jarrett for third in career starts ... Jason Keller (No. 22 Miller High Life Ford) is slated to make the 325th start of his NASCAR Busch Series career in the Sam's Town 300. In doing so, Keller will move past Dale Jarrett into sole possession of third place on the all-time list of most NASCAR Busch Series starts.

Tommy Houston leads the pack with 417 races in the series to his credit, while Elton Sawyer is second with 392 starts. Both are retired.

Keller made his first NASCAR Busch Series start April 27, 1991 at Lanier Raceway in Georgia, where he qualified eighth and finished 29th in the 30-car field due to an accident. Keller collected a whopping $575 for his efforts in that first race.

Nearly 13 years later, with more than $8 million as the division's all-time leading money winner, Keller is one of the series' established stars. And at the age of 33, he's got a lot more racing left in him.

"That's such a big word -- 'star'," Keller says with a laugh. "It's hard for me to put myself in the same category with Dale Jarrett, Tommy Houston and Elton Sawyer. Those are guys I grew up idolizing. When I came into racing, they'd been winning races and doing everything successfully in the NASCAR Busch Series. It's a huge honor for me."

Keller would be perfectly content to tie Houston atop the list of all-time starts in the 26th race of the 2006 season, and pass him in the 27th.

"The NASCAR Busch Series has been extremely good for me over the years," said Keller. "My goal has been to be a successful NASCAR Busch Series racer. Now, don't get me wrong. I always wonder, 'What if?', concerning the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. But I've never really pushed the envelope, to make myself a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver just to be successful.

"I'm extremely honored to be a part of the NASCAR Busch Series for as long as I have been, and, hopefully, I can be a part of it for five or 10 more years. The NASCAR Busch Series has been a great home for me for 10 years. It's just a part of my life. I like being the 'experienced' driver."


Ron Hornaday (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet) has seven consecutive top-10 finishes at Las Vegas, and an average finish of sixth, in NASCAR's top three divisions -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In his two NASCAR Busch Series races at the track, Hornaday was eighth in 2000 and ninth last year. Hornaday's best finish at the track is a second in a 1998 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event.


* "Vegas is just a really nice race track. It's always good for racing. We did not go to the pre-season winter test they had out there, but talking to the guys [who did test], tire wear is a major factor there. It was a race track where you could run lap after lap after lap on the same tires, but they claim the tires slowed down two seconds in 30 laps, which is just a phenomenal amount. I think the whole first part of the season, the story is going to be about tire wear and chassis setups more than anything, other than at the superspeedways. Again, like everywhere else we go, we've got our new Fords and our new sponsorship from GEICO and Sport Clips and our new motor program with Ilmor. The whole start of this season is exciting right now. I look forward to going out there and winning the big one ... rolling three sevens." -- Mike Wallace (No. 4 GEICO/Sport Clips Ford)

* "I think it helps me to spot. It gives me another way to look at the track and see things from a different angle. Hopefully, I will see something I can use when I am out there." -- Tim Fedewa (No. 12 Supercuts Chevrolet), who will spot for Bill Elliott during the March 7 UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

* "We are going for all the money in Las Vegas. After two average races to start the year, everyone on this Team Marines Racing team is ready to go to Victory Lane in Las Vegas. Ever since [crew chief] Harold Holly joined our team, we have been real strong on the mile-and-a-half race tracks. Harold has a great talent for getting the car perfectly balanced, and on a track like Vegas, that's going to be real important. We will be taking our car that won three races last year. About the only change we have made to it is to give it an even better body in the offseason." -- Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 25 U.S. Marine Corps Ford)

* "First of all, we are talking about Las Vegas, where there is excitement 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I want to do all my winning at the track. It is going to be a fun-filled weekend. We had a great test at Las Vegas last month. My crew chief, Kevin 'Bono' Manion decided it would be best to concentrate on race trim during the test. That was my first trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I really like the layout of the track. It did not take long for me to get comfortable." -- Martin Truex Jr. (No. 8 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet). Chance 2 Motorsports scored a fourth-place finish last year at Las Vegas with Steve Park behind the wheel.


* "Justin Labonte's cell phone is ringing, but he's unavailable right now. He is hanging upside down, 78 feet from the ground, tethered by a rope and hoping the guy holding the safety line has a strong grip. Labonte, who is used to taking thrill rides on weekends, took on a more precarious challenge Friday [Feb. 27] by getting a personalized tour of his [NASCAR] Busch Series sponsor, the United States Coast Guard." -- George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel.


Las Vegas Motor Speedway's inaugural NASCAR Busch Series race was the first for the division West of the Mississippi River. This season, seven of the series' 34 races will be held West of the Mississippi, plus one at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis.


What: Sam's Town 300 (Race No. 3 of 34 in the NASCAR Busch Series).
Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas, Nev.
When: 1 p.m. PT, 4 p.m. ET, Saturday, March 6.

Track layout: 1.5-mile, banked, paved oval.
Race length: 300 miles/200 laps.

TV: FX, 3:30 p.m. (ET).
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday--Practice, 9-11:15 a.m.; Qualifying, 1:30 p.m.; Final Practice, after conclusion of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series qualifying.


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Drivers Bill Elliott , Dale Jarrett , Steve Park , Jason Keller , Elton Sawyer , Mike Wallace , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Justin Labonte , Martin Truex Jr.