BYRNES on Busch: Keller's loyalty, prayer for Purvis

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

I talked to current Busch points leader Jason Keller at Richmond, and his name was flying around a lot as a possible replacement in several Winston Cup rides, including the Wood Brothers' 21 car currently occupied by Elliott Sadler. He said he's received three or four calls lately from Winston Cup car owners. Four wins in the season's first 12 races will do that for you. Jason's only 32 years old, but he's got 266 career Busch starts so he's been at it a long time. He owned his own team with his father. In the late '90s, his career took a nosedive. They were more worried about running the business of racing than actually racing, and Jason lost confidence.
NASCAR on FOX May 23-26 at Charlotte

  • Thurs. May 23, Winston Cup: Bud Pole Qualifying, 8 p.m. ET on FX
  • Sat. May 25, Winston Cup Happy Hour, Noon ET on FX and CARQUEST AUTO PARTS 300, 1 p.m. ET on FOX
  • Sun. May 26, COCA-COLA FAMILY OF RACING 600, 5 p.m. ET on FOX
  • ppc Racing car owner Greg Pollex hired him when Keller says no one would take his phone call. He said, "I owe him a lot of loyalty. Before I do anything, I'm going to talk to Greg Pollex." He even told me in Richmond, "I would prefer to stay at ppc Racing and run some Winston Cup races with them." That response says a lot about his feelings for the owner and his loyalty to him. He told me three or four solid Winston Cup teams have courted him, but he flat looked at me and said, "I would rather stay with this team." The other thing he wants is a championship. At Texas he told me that the team has undergone big changes this year. They have Robert Yates motors, which everybody knows is pretty serious steam and an advantage. If you've got a Yates motor program, you've got the upper hand horsepower-wise. But Jason said, engines aside, the biggest improvement he's made is his attitude, which kind of shocked me because he's always been a very upbeat and professional race car driver. In the past, he said that he would go to a racetrack that he hadn't run well on, and he was defeated before he got there. "I've never run well there," he would tell himself. "I don't know the way around that well." He's really focused on changing his thought process. When he goes to a place where traditionally he doesn't run well, he's going to figure out how to run well there. And if he can't, then he's going to soldier on and bring home a top-10 finish. He's not leaving anything on the table is how he said it. Even at racetracks where he doesn't run well, he's got the mindset that he's going to run better.

    Thoughts and prayers with Purvis

    Jeff Purvis is a guy that I've known a long time. He's a very intense guy. In fact, I happened to be tracking him down during the race at Talladega last month. He was in third position, and a motor blew up. I was following him to the garage. I tapped him, and I asked, "Hey man, do you want to talk?" You could see the frustration and the fire that he had inside of him, how disappointed he was. He's been up and down in this series, and he really wants things to work out at Brewco Motorsports. When he lost his motor and Greg Biffle ran into Jeff on Sunday, we ran the in-car replay, and it took my breath away because, quite frankly, it was the worst in-car camera shot I have ever seen, looking at it from Biffle's car. Most in-car camera crashes are more of a dull thud, but that was like an explosion. From the booth, Winston Cup driver/race analyst Mike Wallace and I were extremely worried about his well-being until his team owner Clarence Brewer came out of the care center and said on camera that Jeff was alert. Mike and I spoke about how the brought home the reality of racing. There's big money. It's glamorous and exciting. You're doing something that most people can't do. But you could also suffer a brain contusion, two broke vertebrae and a broken left leg as Jeff did. Jeff and his fianc ée Margo Turner will be married on June 22, and I thought about them when I saw that replay. It's a very difficult thing to be able to maintain your composure while you're digging for information, and you know a guy personally. It's not an easy thing for us to do. Steve Byrnes hosts , on Fox Sports Net weeknights at 6 p.m. local and SPEED Channel at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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