This Week in Ford Racing April 29, 2003 NASCAR Busch Grand National Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Taurus, returns to Richmond International Raceway this weekend the defending winner of the Hardee's 250, the site of his third of four...
This Week in Ford Racing
April 29, 2003
NASCAR Busch Grand National
Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Taurus, returns to Richmond International Raceway this weekend the defending winner of the Hardee's 250, the site of his third of four series wins in 2002. While Keller celebrated only his 33rd birthday last week, this weekend marks his 178th consecutive Busch Series start and his 298th career start. Keller spoke about his longtime association with crew chief Steve Addington and his veteran experience in the series.
JASON KELLER-57 -Albertsons Ford Taurus
YOU HAVE BEEN TEAMED WITH STEVE ADDINGTON FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS. IS THAT RELATIONSHIP STILL PROSPERING?
"It's just a great combination. Any time you can go and know what each other is talking about and how we're talking about it. It's just a fantastic combination. But no matter how long you're together, sometimes you hit a rut and need to go test and do some things to get back on track. We know that it's not going to be all rosy. We know that there are going to be some ups and downs, and there's going to be a lot of competition, but I wouldn't take it any other way. I'd take my combination to run for the championship over anybody else's. I look at what we did in 2002 and had we not had a couple of mechanical failures and maybe a couple of breaks go our way, we could have easily have won the championship. It wasn't like we were way, way off in 2002, and I feel like we can continue to make that better and be better in 2003."
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU GAVE AWAY THE CHAMPIONSHIP LAST SEASON WITH SOME MISSED OPPORTUNITIES?
"I think Kansas City set the tone. We were within 30 points and running in the top five most of the day to have a mechanical failure. It did set the tone for the remainder of the season. I don't want to say we gave it away because it wasn't anything intentional. Our mechanical failures, they weren't the same all of the races. We had three different mechanical failures in the engine, but it wasn't a lack of preparation on the engine part or a lack of preparation on anyone's part. It was just things that came up and bit us. Michigan is a prime example. Biffle was the first car out and we're running third with 20 laps to go and have a mechanical failure. That's when we could have truly capitalized, but we weren't able to."
WITH YOUR CONTINUED SUCCESS AND COMMITMENT TO THE BUSCH SERIES OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, DO YOU FEEL THAT YOU'RE THE ELDER STATESMAN?
"Ron (Hornaday) is a whole lot older than I am. I've chose to stay in the Busch Series to wait on the right opportunity. I've chosen to stay in the Busch Series because I do want a championship. I don't think that's anything to hide. I like my chances and I like my chances to try to win a championship, and it's very important to me. I hate to say that I've stayed in it so long to win a championship and get so close so many times and not do it. I'm really pushing towards that. I don't know when my Busch Series competition is going to end, but I'm not as old as Ron."
DO YOU FEEL YOU NEED TO TAKE A VETERAN ROLE IN THE SERIES, PERHAPS A MORE VOCAL ROLE?
"I probably need to but that's not my personality. It's kinda hard to take that role. I'm comfortable in the Busch Series. I love the Busch Series; 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. Hopefully this will be one more chapter, I don't want to say my final chapter, but it will be one more chapter in my Busch Series story and hopefully it will be a good one."
DO YOU WANT TO GO OUT ON TOP? WILL YOU CONSIDER RUNNING WINSTON CUP FULL-TIME IF YOU WIN THE BUSCH SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP IN 2003?
"I don't know the answer to that yet. Ever since I came into the Busch Series, the coolest thing I thought there was is the Busch champion being able to park in the number one spot. I've parked in the number two spot and the number three spot, but I've always dreamed about walking in the garage area and seeing that No. 57 parked up front with me driving it. I don't know that's just something that I've dreamed about. It's a quirky thing to dream about, but I think it would be cool to walk into the garage area every week and have that first parking spot in the garage area."
YOU'VE BEEN GIVEN TO OPPORTUNITY TO RUN THE CHICAGOLAND RACE IN THE WINSTON CUP RACE.
"I see it as a great opportunity for me because I can still focus on the Busch car and the Busch Series, but see what the Winston Cup Series is about. You never know until you get over there. It may not be for me, or it may be the perfect thing for me. You don't know. Actually Ford was gracious enough to give me the go-ahead to do this, and ppc was gracious enough. It is a one-race opportunity for me to test the waters and see what the Winston Cup Series is about. Is it a sign of things to come? I don't know. Everybody can read in it what they want to, but it's truly a one-race opportunity for me to go and test with a Winston Cup team, for me to race for a Winston Cup team and for me to see what it's like."
ARE THERE ANY DISCUSSIONS ABOUT RUNNING A FEW WINSTON CUP RACES IN A PPC RACING CAR?
"We've talked about it over the last couple of years, and we just haven't been able to put the financial funding together. I'd love to do that. I'd love nothing more than to do that. That would make me so comfortable and it would be just great for me to do that. It's just so hard to find any financial backing and it seems that all of our financial backing has been found for the Busch Series, so we haven't had that opportunity. I would love to, though. Are there plans? We've kicked it around for the past couple of years. I think that was why everyone said, 'Let's give Jason the right to do this Winston Cup deal,' because we haven't been able to put together anything at ppc. We'll see what happens."