This Week in Ford Racing June 22, 2004 NASCAR Busch Series Jason Keller, driver of the No. 22 Miller High Life Ford, is looking to defend his Busch Series title at the Milwaukee Mile this weekend, and in the process extend Ford Racing's ...
This Week in Ford Racing
June 22, 2004
NASCAR Busch Series
Jason Keller, driver of the No. 22 Miller High Life Ford, is looking to defend his Busch Series title at the Milwaukee Mile this weekend, and in the process extend Ford Racing's streak of three consecutive victories at the track that includes back-to-back victories by Greg Biffle in 2001-2002. Sixteen races into the season, the 34-year-old Keller sits seventh in the point standings, 37 out of the top five.
JASON KELLER -No. 22-Miller High Life Ford
WITH YOUR COMMITMENT TO THE BUSCH SERIES AS A FULL-TIME COMPETITOR FOR THE PAST DECADE, DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU'RE THE ELDER STATESMAN?
"I think a lot of people think I'm older than what I really am. Ron (Hornaday) is a whole lot older than I am. I've chosen to stay in the Busch Series to wait for the right opportunity, and I've chosen to stay in the Busch Series because I want a championship. I don't think that's anything to hide. I'm comfortable in the Busch Series. I love the Busch Series, and it's been very good to me. It's been a way for me to fit my lifestyle. I've been able to spend a lot of time with my kids and I've been noticed because of what I have done in the Busch Series."
YOU HAVE QUIETLY REMAINED IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP HUNT FOR THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON. DO YOU THINK SOME PEOPLE FORGOT ABOUT YOU?
"I hope so. I hope they're not paying attention. We've seemed to have gotten our program better and the guys are doing fantastic on pit road. Someone asked me what I expected out of this year, and I just said I really hope we can stay in the game until we can get our act together, until we can learn our communication, so it's kind of going as planned as I had hoped it would. Naturally, we didn't get the performances at some of the race tracks that I had hoped for, but there's so much new this year and we had to work through some issues."
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT FOR A DRIVER TO STAY FOCUSED WHEN PEOPLE START TO QUESTION A TEAM'S PERFORMANCE? "I look at the NEXTEL Cup guys that have to go through that all the time. There are so many predictions made in the off-season about who's going to contend for the championship, who should do what and who's going to do what. I really don't put a lot of validity in that. It really doesn't bother me. I rarely turn on my computer and the more I read stuff on the Internet, the more I read stuff in the newspapers, sometimes it gets under your skin. When things are kind of going bad, I just lay low and don't read as much as I probably need to. Look at veteran guys. Jeff Burton is a prime example. Is he less of a race-car driver this year? No, he's still a great race-car driver, but sometimes it doesn't go your way. You just have to stay strong. I think our race team, we all knew that no matter how hard we practiced and how hard we prepared over the off-season it was still going to be tough and it wasn't going to be easy."
THIS IS FINAL RACE OF A THREE-WEEK STRETCH WHERE THE BUSCH SERIES HAS COMPETED AT A DIFFERENT VENUE FROM THE NEXTEL CUP SERIES. IS THIS A STRETCH THAT YOU LOOK FORWARD TO AS A BUSCH SERIES REGULAR?
"It's been a good stretch for us. We feel we should have had a top-10, maybe a top-five finish at Nashville and we did have a top-five last weekend in Kentucky, so we're making strides as a team. To me, I don't focus on these races differently. I go out there and give it my all, and after every practice I look to see who's the fastest on the speed chart, and I hope it's me. It's hard to differentiate the standalone events anyway because all of these Cup guys are going to fly back and forth to race, so it looks like they're going to be in the field no matter if the Cup Series is racing with us or not."
DOES THE BUSCH SERIES NEED TO DEVELOP ITS OWN IDENTITY, AND WOULD IT BE HELPFUL TO RUN LESS CUP COMPANION EVENTS TO ACHIEVE THAT GOAL?
"It depends on what market you go in. I think some markets can handle that. Kentucky has proven that it can handle it and Nashville has proven that they can handle it. New Hampshire proved that they could handle it before. I think the markets dictate that. I'm not so sure we could go to a Texas or somewhere without NEXTEL Cup. We need the draw of the Cup drivers at some venues, and it's my personal opinion that it's a market scenario."