Idega Notes:/I Busch Race Tightens

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – Jason Keller was touted by many insiders as perhaps the driver to beat in the Busch Series championship race this season. He’s making his supporters look pretty good early on.

Saturday’s victory in the Aaron’s 312 was his second of the season. Keller, who now has seven career Busch Series triumphs, has never won more than two races in a single season since he became a full-time driver in the series in 1994.

Keller won at Bristol and Indianapolis, both short tracks, in 1999. His victory at Talladega is his first on a superspeedway. In fact, he had never finished higher than 11th at Talladega Superspeedway during his eight-year career.

Granted, a 29-car accident on Lap 14 took out most of the field in Saturday afternoon’s race, but Keller appeared to have a strong car anyway. He might not have won the race had the accident not happened, but then again, he might have.

“Our superspeedway program has come a long way,” Keller said. “It was really unfortunate for the fans that they didn’t get to see the white-knuckle, side-by-side racing that they’re used to here.

“I’m a racer, too, and it made my job a little easier today, but you still want the fans to get a show for their money. It’s a little unfortunate for that, but they were going to give away a trophy at the end of the race, not matter if one car finished or 43 cars finished.”

Sprague Still in Points Lead
Despite getting involved in the 29-car accident in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312, Jack Sprague continues to the lead the Busch Series points standings after eight races.

Sprague received minimal damage to his car during the melee and finished the race in 13th. His points lead, however, was closed up considerably as Keller, the winner of Saturday’s event, closed to within 22 points of the front-runner.

Randy LaJoie dropped one spot to third, 90 points behind Sprague. Kenny Wallace, Scott Riggs, Greg Biffle, Bobby Hamilton Jr., Stacy Compton, Mike McLaughlin and Scott Wimmer round out the Top 10 in the standings.

Fedewa Hot, Hot, Hot
It wasn’t supposed to be a full-day’s work for Tim Fedewa on Saturday. He was supposed to take Mike Wallace’s back-up car and run a few laps, and then come into the garage and park his Pontiac.

when the “big wreck” occurred early on during the Aaron’s 312 – one in which Wallace himself was involved – the Biagi Bros. Racing team reconsidered its plans. Fedewa not only stayed out on the track and finished the race, but wound up finishing third.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know I was going to race until I got here and Mike asked me to run his back-up car for a few laps, and I said, ‘sure,’ ” Fedewa said. “So, I was going to play it by ear and run about 10 laps. We ran about how many ever until the big one hit; then we said maybe we’ll stay out a while and see what happens. Who knew? It was a pretty cool day.”

So to speak. Fedewa said there were no air hoses or vents in Wallace’s back-up car, and that he was “burning up” throughout the race in the Pontiac. He suffered burns on his foot, and was treated in the infield care center. Temperatures Saturday in the Talladega area reached near 90 degrees.

DEI to Honor Earnhardt’s Birthday
Dale Earnhardt Inc. is creating yet another new tradition, in honor of its founder, the late Dale Earnhardt.

The organization’s Mooresville, N.C.-based facility will host its inaugural Dale Earnhardt Day celebration on Monday, April 29th, Earnhardt’s birthday. For the first time ever, fans will be allowed to enter the interior show room of the complex to get a close up look at several historic No. 3 Chevys driven by the seven-time Winston Cup champion.

Olympic gold medallist Picabo Street will make a guest appearance. The Olympic skier followed Earnhardt’s career for years.

DEI will open its doors for fans from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. For more information, call 1-877-DEI-ZONE.

Record Crowd at Talladega
Talladega Superspeedway President Grant Lynch announced Sunday that all grandstand seats were sold for Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 Winston Cup race, and that’s the largest crowd ever to watch a race at the 2.66-mile track.

“We have the best fans in all of racing, in all of sports for that matter,” Lynch said. “The electricity in this place is always turned up, but it’s even higher this year.”

Last year, Talladega Superspeedway added 5,200 seats in the O.V. Hill South Tower, bringing the track’s permanent seating capacity to 143,500. The number doesn’t include the fans who fill Talladega’s 212-acre infield, which is home to eight reserved campground sites.

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