This Week in Ford Racing February 17, 2004 NASCAR Busch Series Jason Keller, driver of the No. 22 Ford, expresses a sense of urgency to get off to a strong start this season even with the numerous off-season changes his team has endured ...
This Week in Ford Racing
February 17, 2004
NASCAR Busch Series
Jason Keller, driver of the No. 22 Ford, expresses a sense of urgency to get off to a strong start this season even with the numerous off-season changes his team has endured including a new crew chief and new sponsor. The 33-year-old South Carolina native had a successful Speed Weeks , posting a ninth-place finish in the season-opening event, and looks to Rockingham this weekend to rekindle past success that includes one win and five top-five finishes in the past eight races. Keller shared his thoughts on the new tire compound, how it will affect the racing in the Busch Series and the impact of ppc Racing's truck series involvement.
JASON KELLER - No.22 - Miller High Life Taurus
SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW TIRE COMPOUND AND THE IMPACT IT WILL HAVE IN THE UPCOMING RACES. "I tested at Las Vegas. I haven't heard anything bad from the people who have tested there. I don't know if you're going to see a lot more wear-out at places where the tires already wore out. Places that tires typically wore out anyway, I don't think you're going to see a big deal, but these places that we used to run off the tires, you can't come in and take two. I don't think that will always be the case because Scott Wimmer took two tires and had a good finish in the 500. I think you can still do it, but you have to be a little bit more selective."
AS A DRIVER, ARE YOU NOW MORE SENSITIVE TO VIBRATIONS IN THE COCKPIT KNOWING THAT THE TIRES WEAR OUT QUICKER? "You think about it. It did cross my mind a little bit on some of those runs to make sure I wasn't beating the right-front and doing things like that. I've always been a fan of tire management. I like the fact that you can't just wear out the tire and you just can't wear off the right-front. I've always been a fan of tire-management racing. I've always seemed to run better at those places where we have that and I'm not so sure the younger drivers will. I think it will give some of the younger drivers a little bit more trouble than just having to go out there, bolt on four tires and blast off and be able to run off the tires."
DO YOU FEEL THAT THE NEW TIRE WILL SLOW THE SUCCESS ROOKIE CLASSES HAVE EXPERIENCED IN THE PAST FEW YEARS? "The rookies now are with better race teams than they used to be with, so I think they're still going to run good, but I don't think they will run as consistently and dominate like they did in years past and really make such a big, big splash. Now it's going to put more people like Dale Jarrett back in the mix, who like the old tires and like the way the tires wore out, and hopefully it will put myself back in the mix more. I typically run better when you can really just slide the car around a little bit better and save your tires and not wear your tires out. I typically like those types of places. Hopefully it will put us on a little bit more of an equal playing field and maybe put us at an advantage."
YOU GREW UP RACING LATE MODELS WHERE A LOT OF THE YOUNGER DRIVERS BYPASSED THAT STAGE. IS THE FEEL YOU GET WITH THE NEW TIRES SIMILAR TO THE FEEL OF DRIVING A LATE MODEL? "I sure hope so. The cars moved around so much more at Daytona than they ever have. I like to used the word 'squishy.' You can feel the sidewalls of the tires where you couldn't in the past. You used to run on those stiff tires and you were just up there on top of the race track, but with these tires I referred to the squishy feel. It gets down in the race track and they move around a lot. Hopefully we are getting back to the late model days. I know I really enjoyed my test at Las Vegas. I'm really excited to see how the tires react in Rockingham and at Las Vegas the next couple of weeks."
YOU CHOSE NOT TO TEST AT ROCKINGHAM. DID YOU PUT LESS EMPHASIS ON ROCKINGHAM THIS YEAR WITH THE FACILITY ONLY HOSTING ONE RACE THIS YEAR? "I've said all along that we need to get out of the box pretty quick. We don't need to stub our toe too bad and Rockingham was not one of the places that we chose to test. We chose to test Las Vegas and I think we're going to go to another couple of race tracks early in the year. I don't want to say that Rockingham has less of an impact. Because the race track always changed from spring to fall anyway, to really test there and test for both races you had to test twice a year, so I don't view it that way."
PPC RACING IS DOWN TO A SINGLE-CAR EFFORT IN THE BUSCH SERIES, BUT THE ORGANIZATION IS NOW FIELDING A TRUCK SERIES ENTRY THIS YEAR. DID YOU FEEL YOUR PERFORMANCE WAS HAMPERED AT DAYTONA DUE TO THE CHANGE? "I didn't see it at all in Daytona. If anything, it was nice to have the truck race under our belt the night before because we talked about tires, we talked about air pressure, we talked about a lot of things that they brought to the table. I didn't see any of that at all. I'm sure there are going to be races that we're struggling and we'd wish we had a teammate, but with Ford's help we do the best we can with what we've got. I like what I saw with Terry Cook. I think we're going to run a handful of races together this year as far as the truck series, and hopefully we can learn from those races and be real strong and use what we've got as an advantage."
WITH ST MOTORSPORTS - ANOTHER ORGANIZATION WITHOUT NEXTEL CUP TIES - JOINING THE FORD CAMP ON THE BUSCH SIDE THIS YEAR, DO YOU THINK YOU CAN POOL YOUR RESOURCES TO OVERCOME THE LOSS OF A TEAMMATE? "I think so. I think we're going to be out to help each other and willing to help each other. We've kind of have to see where this thing evolves together and see where it goes, but I think we're going to be able to work together with them and some of these other Ford teams. We want the Fords to do good, and naturally I want to beat all of the other Fords, but in the end our cars react the same and we want each other to do good."
LEAVING DAYTONA WITH A TOP-10 FINISH, YOU HAVE TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT THE START OF THE SEASON COMPARED TO LAST YEAR. "As a competitor, I sat down after the race and said, 'I really wish I would have done better.' But, I don't want to over step my bounds. Daytona is a tough race and I probably should be a little happier with a top-10 finish because of what happened there last year, but I'm really pushing forward to do great things this year and I see what my race team is capable of so far, and I can't wait to get to these next couple of races."