Jason Keller has been racing in the Busch Series for 17 years. Over that time he has won 10 races, scored 81 top fives and 161 top 10s. He has sat on the pole 11 times and his best career points finish was second in 2000 and 2002. The most impressive statistic of all of the numbers that Keller has compiled over his career is the fact that he is about to start his 418th race in the series. If Keller is able to make the race this weekend, when he takes the green flag, he will set the mark as the all-time leader in the number of races started by a competitor in Busch competition.
Frontstretch sat down with Keller during a break in activity at Charlotte and talked to him about his week, his career, and his car for this weekend. When asked about his week, Keller said:”It has been a very busy week. We’ve been getting a lot of attention. It has been an honor to compete in the Busch Series all these years.” Keller noted “It has been an honor to carry the banner for the Busch Series this weekend. It has felt very good to have so much attention focused on the series and if it is because of me, so be it.”
When asked about how much he was looking forward to race number 418, Keller was honest:”I am actually looking more forward to race 419. It will be a relief to get this out of the way and just get back to racing.” Keller acknowledged that this year has not been easy, getting a late start on things and obviously having to play catch up, but he feels like the team has really come together and it beginning to really perform well, especially over the last two months. When quizzed about how long he might possibly continue racing, Keller didn’t want to put a number on things. “My kids are growing up, and if I said five years, that would put them at the age where they’d be getting ready to head off to college, and I’d need to find something to do.” He was philosophical about his contributions to his team and the sport going forward: “As long as I can make a difference, I’ll keep going. If someone is willing to pay me, and I feel like I can be a benefit to the team, I’d like to keep racing”
Keller handled the usual question about not making it into a serious Cup entry with aplomb. “Rick Hendrick never called.” Jason recognized that he did have some offers to run in NASCAR’s top division for some average teams, but he never received that offer that he could not refuse. He said he is a racer by trade, and a dad at heart. The fact that he doesn’t have the demands on his time like Cup drivers do allows him to be very active in his kids’ lives. He coaches their sport teams and gets to spend more time with them because of the fact that he never took a job running on Sundays. He said that he is basically content with his place within the sport and, while in hindsight he may have been better served taking a shot at NASCAR’s top division, he has no regrets about the direction that his career took and doesn’t feel any sense of missing out by not taking any of the rides he was offered.
Keller’s record is not only a statement about his longevity in the sport, it is also a testament to his abilities. Keller was running at the finish of 357 of the races he competed in, an 85% completion rate. He has always been a smooth driver who takes care of his equipment and runs his fellow competitors clean. It is hard to remember a time where Keller was involved in an on-track confrontation or a crash-fest where he ran into someone with malicious intent.
Keller noted that his current team is made up of racers. There are several people from PPC Racing who started their careers as racers and are in it for the love of the sport. He enjoys running for a team that is in it for the pure love of the sport and focus on that more than anything else associated with the trappings of running in the upper divisions of NASCAR. Keller is a one of the good guys in the sport, and it is a pleasure to watch him achieve a record that will potentially never be broken. In the modern era of the Busch series, there aren’t too many people who are in it for the long haul like Keller. Most are either Buschwhackers who just do it for a few years, or development drivers who are moving up and not looking back. Keller is old school and could very well run another 100-200 races before he calls it a career. The best thing about it is he is a racer by trade, and a dad at heart.