NASCAR Busch Grand National Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertsons Ford, closed the gap in the NASCAR Busch Series points race last week in Dover and now trails first-place Greg Biffle by 35 heading into this weekend's Mr. Goodcents 300...
NASCAR Busch Grand National
Jason Keller, driver of the No. 57 Albertsons Ford, closed the gap in the NASCAR Busch Series points race last week in Dover and now trails first-place Greg Biffle by 35 heading into this weekend's Mr. Goodcents 300 at Kansas Speedway. Keller, who finished fifth in last year's inaugural event at the 1.5-mile speedway, hasn't been able to match that kind of success on the mile-and-a-half ovals this season, posting only one top-10 finish in five races (Chicagoland). With an average finish of 18th at the 1.5-mile tracks so far this season, as well as being the backdrop for four of the last seven races, Keller knows the importance of turning that statistic around to further close the points gap in his quest for the championship.
JASON KELLER-57-Albertsons Ford Taurus
YOU FINISHED FIFTH AT LAST YEAR'S INAUGURAL RACE AT KANSAS SPEEDWAY. IN YOUR MIND, WAS THAT SUCCESSFUL WEEKEND AT A FIRST-TIME VENUE?
"Hindsight is something that always seems to come up in racing, and we were leading when we chose to pit late in that race and we could only come back to fifth. I think it's a good track for us and I'm looking forward going back there a second time. About the only thing that I remember about the surface is that it's real smooth and you could race a couple of different grooves and I'm pretty excited about going back. Any time we can go to a track where there's more than one racing groove, you always look forward to going back."
GOING BACK TO KANSAS, DO YOU WORRY THAT THE TRACK SURFACE HAS CHANGED NOW THAT IT HAS HAD A CHANCE TO SETTLE AND IT MIGHT RENDER YOUR NOTES FROM LAST YEAR USELESS?
"I don't think so. Lyndon Amick, who is going to be a third ppc car this weekend, actually tested out there and all of the computer data that we gathered out there shows that the race track really hasn't settled or gotten a lot rougher like some tracks do. Some tracks really settle over a winter, but all of the computer data shows that it's still really smooth, so it shouldn't be a problem going back using most of our notes from last and some of what Lyndon learned a couple of weeks ago."
YOU ONLY HAVE ONE TOP-5 FINISH AT THE MILE-AT-A-HALF VENUES THIS YEAR. WHAT HAS BEEN THE SOURCE OF YOUR TROUBLE?
"I don't know. I do know that we have chosen to use two of our tests at Charlotte and Atlanta. We haven't gotten the right feel on the mile-and-a-half tracks. I felt there were a few mile-and-a-half tracks that we were going to run good at based on qualifying and practice. We were actually running real well at Kentucky and broke a motor. I don't think the stats are exactly true of how we have run, but we haven't run like we'd hoped to run on mile-and-a-half tracks. We do know that there will be three of them coming up pretty quick. We've got to get our act together. I feel very comfortable going into Kansas City, and feel like we can go there and run good."
WITH THE SEASON WINDING DOWN AND THE POINTS RACE BEING AS CLOSE AS IT IS, HAVE YOU PUT MORE FOCUS ON THE MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACKS?
"It's definitely somewhere we haven't run as good as we would have liked this year, so I would say that we're definitely focused on that. We're focusing on everything, but we know we need to test at those places. We know that we don't have the exact feel that we want. It's more of a feel thing at those places than anything else right now. On the other hand, we're not just going to focus on that and lose sight of what we have to do at the other tracks, but we do need to put a little extra effort at the mile-and-a-half tracks."
YOU POSTED FOUR WINS IN THE FIRST 12 RACES OF THE SEASON, BUT WITH THE ATTENTION TURNING TO THE POINTS RACE, HAS THE ATMOSPHERE WITHIN THE TEAM CHANGED?
"It's still very loose. I'm not going to get wrapped up concentrating on the points. I've said that all along and I'm not going to start now. This year is already by far the most successful year that I've already had in terms of Top-5s, wins and laps led. We've accomplished so much and I think if we start focusing on one person or the championship, we're going to forget what we need to be doing. It's still very loose. We still joke about winning more races. They're joking, saying that I haven't won all year long because it's been so long since I've won a race that they've forgotten what it's like, so I need to start winning more races. I think it's just as light as it's always been."
THE CARS ARE PARKED IN THE GARAGE BASED ON THE POINTS STANDINGS. DO YOU EVER FIND YOURSELF LOOKING AT THE NEXT STALL TO SEE WHAT IS HAPPENING, ESPECIALLY LAST WEEKEND AT DOVER WHERE GREG BIFFLE HAD TO CHANGE MOTORS PRIOR TO THE RACE?
"No because I don't think we allow ourselves to get excited. Look at what happened at Michigan. He (Biffle) broke a motor and then we broke a motor. You just don't know until the end of a race. Regardless of what he did, to change a motor to start in the back, we could have broke the first lap and finished in the back, too. We knew he changed motors because we're parked side by side, but in all honesty, it never came into play. I never knew he got into an accident on the race track. I never knew he broke at Michigan until after I fell out. We're not focused on what's he doing. We're aware of what he's doing, but we don't monitor him on the radio. Our race is not decided on what he does. We're going to race our own race and continue to do what we've done since day one. I set goals for myself at the beginning of the year and I haven't accomplished all of them yet. There's still a lot of racing yet and I'm not focused on one driver or one team. I'm focused on doing the best we can and there's still a ton of racing left. But, I am excited. I'm excited to be a part of the climax of the season, and I'm excited to be a part of all that, but I'm not going to dwell on it and focus on it."
YOU ARE CURRENTLY TRAILING GREG BIFFLE IN THE POINT STANDINGS 27 RACES INTO THE SEASON, BUT YOU WERE LEADING EARLIER IN THE YEAR. ARE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE BEING THE HUNTER OR THE HUNTED?
"Well, it really doesn't matter, and that's the true answer there. I haven't really thought about the points race. During the race, I don't think about the points race. I think about trying to finish the best we possibly can, and I think that is from the lack of every being in a really heated points race. That may change with two or three races to go, but I'm just focused on our car, and it wouldn't really matter to me if I had a 100-point lead or was behind 100. As long as I know that our car is the best it can possibly be, and we continue to try to make it better and better every week and maximize our car every week, then we can't control the points. I can't control what Greg Biffle does. I can't control his race team, so I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to try to continue to make our race car better and do the best we can every week."
HOW DO YOU AVOID LETTING THE TALK ABOUT THE POINTS RACE BECOME A DISTRACTION?
"I just block it out. When I get in that race car, I make myself focus on my race car. I look at where he is in practice and I look where he qualifies, but I did that the second race of the season because I know he's competition more than anything. I just block it out. It's a natural question to ask; I don't mind people asking it. It's a natural question. I hope it comes down to the wire. I hope he and I are neck and neck going into Homestead because it would be a good story, but no matter what, I still can't control what he does. I've said all along, all year, that I'm only going to worry about the things that I can control. I can't control his race car, so I'm not going to worry about it. I think we've raced with enough respect that we can race each other on down the stretch."