This Week in Ford Racing May 7, 2002 NASCAR Busch Grand National Only 10 races into 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertsons Taurus, has eclipsed his career-best single-season win total in his 12-year...
This Week in Ford Racing
May 7, 2002
NASCAR Busch Grand National
Only 10 races into 2002 NASCAR Busch Series season, Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertsons Taurus, has eclipsed his career-best single-season win total in his 12-year tenure on the circuit. Keller, the defending champion of this weekend's Busch 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway, won his third race of the season last Friday in Richmond, and in the process, he took over the points lead for the third time this season. Also notable is the fact that Keller captured ppc Racing's fourth consecutive win in the series, and fifth of the year, just two wins shy of its seven total in 2000 when the organization went one-two in the final point standings.
JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus
YOU LEFT RICHMOND NOT ONLY WITH THE WIN, BUT THE POINTS LEAD AS WELL. "It was a big weekend for us. Things fell our way, but we made them fall our way a little bit. We had good pit strategy and we knew what we needed to do as far as fuel mileage, and it just worked out."
WITH THREE WINS IN JUST THE FIRST 10 RACES, HAS THIS SEASON EXCEEDED YOUR EXPECTATIONS SO FAR? "I really like to say that we're performing above expectations, because we said all winter long that we need to win a lot more races, so it's going as planned. We are winning more races and we've been fairly consistent. We've had a couple of bad weeks and we need to minimize those, so if we continue to critique ourselves and be really hard on ourselves, hopefully we can continue to win more races. We didn't say that we wanted to win three of the first 10 races, we said that we want to win races all year long, and that's been our focus all winter long and that hasn't changed."
YOU RETOOK THE POINTS LEAD THIS WEEKEND. HOW MUCH OF A FOCUS HAS THAT BEEN THIS SEASON? "I'm not focused on points right now. It's nice to have the points lead 10 races into the season, but that doesn't mean a whole lot. Winning races right now, I think, means more than anything. If we want to be holding that trophy at the end of the year, we've got to continue to win races. It's not like we've got a substantial lead; we have just a slim lead, and winning races will take care of that."
WITH THE DEPARTURE OF JEFF GREEN AS A TEAMMATE THIS YEAR, DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU HAVE STEPPED OUT FROM THE SHADOWS? "A lot of people were looking at me as second to Jeff, but that was OK and that didn't bother me. I had a long talk with Greg Pollex over the winter when we talked about bringing a rookie driver in, and I was asked to step up, and I feel like I've done that; I feel like our race team has done that. It's with the help of the 10 team that we've done that. We still go back and forth and exchange information, but I think that's a true assessment that I have stepped out of the shadows, so to speak."
DO YOU THINK YOU COULD HAVE ENJOYED THIS KIND OF EARLY-SEASON SUCCESS IF JEFF GREEN WAS STILL YOUR TEAMMATE? "Having Jeff as a teammate was a very good thing for me. It allowed me to push myself as a driver. But the opportunity presented itself. I'm not saying that I'm glad that Jeff Green is not my teammate, but the opportunity presented itself, so I'm trying to do the very best I possibly can. I enjoyed Jeff Green being my teammate through the last race, but now I enjoy Scott Riggs being my teammate every race, too. I just wanted someone that I could work with and really appreciate and enjoy, and that's what's happened."
YOU'VE STATED IN THE PAST THAT CONFIDENCE BREEDS SUCCESS. HOW MUCH OF YOUR SUCCESS IS DERIVED FROM ADDED CONFIDENCE? "I think a lot of it is confidence. When I go into the tracks now, I feel like I can win the race. I hope that trend continues. I'm just really focusing on that, but it's not only confidence with me, but confidence with everybody else, too. As long as we continue to do that, we can't let a bad race get us down because we know that we won on Talladega, the biggest track, we've won a medium-sized track at Rockingham and we won on a pretty small track like Richmond. We've shown that we can win on a lot of different styles of race tracks, so as long we keep that up, we'll be OK."
DID YOU ALLOW THE FEW BAD FINISHES THAT YOU HAD LAST YEAR TO CARRY OVER INTO SUCCESSIVE RACES? "Yeah, we'd ride that wave too much. We'd ride the emotional wave, and we'd be way too far up and then on the bad days, we'd be way too far down. I'm really enjoying our wins - our wins are fantastic - but you can't let them get you way too far up. It's too easy to go from a win one weekend to a 43rd-place finish the next by getting caught up in an accident, and when you ride the emotional roller-coaster like we have in the past, it takes it's toll on you. You just have to be even-keeled about it and not try to let the good times take you too high and the bad times take you too low."
NEW HAMPSHIRE INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY OFFICIALS HAVE TRIED TO ADD A SECOND GROOVE TO THE TRACK BY WIDENING THE CORNERS. WHAT ARE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS ABOUT THE CHANGES? "Loudon has a lot of good memories, and Loudon has a lot of bad memories. I am excited about going back there to defend my title, but there again, there are a lot of bad memories from years past there. I'm anxious to get back up there to see what the new race track surface is like, and hopefully they have resolved some of the issues there in the past."
WITH THE INFLUX OF NEW SUPERSPEEDWAYS BEING BUILT, ARE OLDER, SMALLER VENUES BEING FORCED TO ENSURE SIDE-BY-SIDE RACING, AND IS THIS AN EXAMPLE THAT? "I commend Loudon for trying to make a change. I hope that they've taken a step in the right direction. Drivers like to go to race tracks where they can find another groove on the race surface, but I'm not real familiar with how they've changed Loudon, just from what I've read. Until I get up there, I won't know if they've made a real benefit or if they've just made an effort. Only time will tell on that, but I think it's very important. The fans come to see side-by-side racing, they don't come to see nose-to-tail racing. I love Formula 1 racing, but Formula 1 racing is nose to tail. You might have a pass when somebody comes out of the pits, but we don't need that in NASCAR. We need side-by-side racing at all of the race tracks, which is a very good thing."
IS THE FOCUS ON SAFETY CHANGING FROM THE DEVICES IN THE CARS TO THE RACE TRACKS? "I don't really know if that's a true assessment in that I think it's taking the race tracks a little longer to come up with some safety ideas and implementing them correctly. The safety measures that we took in our race cars were instantaneous, so it looked like everybody was focused on the race car, and that's what we had to do. It's taken the race tracks a little longer to implement some changes. I commend them for that. I think that you're going to see five years down the road that there's going to be yet another a step. You're going to have maybe all of the race tracks that we go to fitted with soft walls. I don't know what the evolution will be, but you're going to continue to see that and I think that we're in an on-going process."
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY DISCUSSIONS ABOUT FIELDING A CUP CAR FOR PPC RACING THIS SEASON? "If the opportunity presents itself, we'll look at it, but right now, I don't want to get into something thinking about something else. I'm just going to try to focus on my Busch program, and be happy that I have a first-class Busch program and not worry about the other stuff. It seemed to have helped Kevin Harvick last year, but the right situation has to help him. I don't know if the right situation is for me to running on Saturday and Sunday. I don't know the answer to that because I've never done it. I'm just going to be very selective and very careful with the next move that I make, and we'll just go from there."