Keller carries banner for Nationwide regulars

Dave Ongie • Mar 20, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Surrounded by a sea of Sprint Cup regulars looking to win Saturday’s Scotts Turf Builder 300, Jason Keller will be carrying the banner for the guys who call the Nationwide Series home.

Of course that’s nothing new for Keller, who has logged 460 Nationwide starts, the most in series history. Driving the No. 27 Ford for Baker Curb Racing, a single-car operation, Keller is ninth in points heading into Saturday’s race.

“It’s hard trying to be sure we put good people in place, but we’ve done that,” Keller said. “It’s a tough thing to do, but nobody has thrown their hands up or thrown the towel in -- we’re just trying to do the best we can.”

Keller has been called one of the most underrated drivers in the Nationwide garage, and for good reason -- he has snagged 10 wins and 166 top-10 finishes in 460 races despite driving for single-car teams his entire career.

Despite the uphill battle Keller faces when he races against well-funded Cup drivers each week, his owner Gary Baker believes Keller has what it takes to give them a run for their money.

“We want Jason in the top five in points,” Baker said “We won’t be satisfied with anything less. The odds, they’re stacked against us, but it’s just like anything else - when the odds are stacked against you, you just need to dig a little bit deeper and work a little bit harder.”

Funding is a huge issue this season with sponsors’ dollars difficult to come by. Baker said the situation is worse than it has ever been in his 30 years in the business, as several ideal sponsors are content to sit on the sidelines.That makes Keller’s quick start to the 2009 season even more important.

“You really have to be sure everyone understands how good you’re doing,” Keller said. “It’s hard to go tell a sponsor we finished ninth but we were the best of the Nationwide-only teams. It’s hard to keep the sponsors motivated when ninth is a huge accomplishment.”

With another strong performance at BMS this week, Keller can strike another blow for himself, his race team and underdogs everywhere.

“We’re not in the top five, but we’re not going to quit until we get there,” Baker said.

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