SPARTA — Wherever life takes them, they say Kentuckians always end up coming home.
At 47, Jeff Green is about to prove that axiom true.
The Owensboro product is near the end of a long and eventful NASCAR career.
He sat on the pole at the 2003 Daytona 500. Green has won 16 races in the series now known as Nationwide. In 2000, he recorded one of the most dominant season championships (winning by a whopping 616 points) in the history of NASCAR's class AAA series.
Now, on a 200-acre farm near Russellville, Green has built a log cabin and a shop "to store my toys," he says.
As soon as he and wife Michelle "can sell our house in North Carolina, we're moving back to Kentucky," Green said Saturday, before driving in the Meijer 300 Presented by Ritz at Kentucky Speedway.
With his days as a driver winding down, Green was hoping Saturday would yield a memorable moment in his home state.
An unlikely circumstance initiated by Kevin Harvick — devout NASCAR fans will enjoy the irony of that — gave Green what may or may not have been his final chance to drive in a major event in Kentucky.
Harvick hired Mike Bliss to drive the car he owns in Saturday's race. That opened up owner Curtis Key Sr.'s No. 10 Westerman Companies Chevrolet for Green.
"It just worked out this way," Green said. "Mike Bliss normally drives this car. With him driving for Harvick, it opened up a chance for me to drive in my home state. Any time you can come home, it's special."
The last time Green, the youngest of the three Owensboro-reared Green brothers who all became NASCAR drivers, raced at Kentucky Speedway he was one of the star attractions.
It was 2001, and what was then the Busch Series was making its debut at the Sparta track.
Green, coming off his commanding points victory the year before, was one of the favorites to claim victory.
Instead, he led for 69 laps, but an incident with a young, up-and-comer — chap by the name of Jimmie Johnson — engulfed the Kentuckian in an accident. Green wound up 31st.
"And I never got back to race," Green said.
The Waltrips, Darrell and Michael, may be Owensboro's marquee brother act in NASCAR. But the three Green brothers, David, Mark and Jeff, gave the Western Kentucky city another stock car success story.
The oldest brother, David, won the 1994 championship in what was then the Busch Series. Mark, the middle brother, still competes on the Nationwide Series and was in the field here Saturday night.
Jeff, the baby of the family, was the most successful of all. Though he never won a Cup race, he recorded five top-five finishes and 16 top 10s in NASCAR's major leagues.
"I had a chance over in the Cup Series to run some good race cars," Green said. "Still, again, you always want to win in everything you do. I came up a little short there."
Green's brilliant 2000 season in the former Busch Series got him the opportunity of a lifetime: a Cup ride with Richard Childress Racing, the team for which the late Dale Earnhardt had his greatest success.
With RCR, Green won two poles (including the 2003 Daytona 500) and recorded eight of his career top 10s. But his 55th race for the team saw teammate Harvick rear end Green's car at Richmond.
The Kentuckian lost his cool and launched a post-race tirade over Harvick. Childress fired Green.
"I didn't get much time there," Green said of RCR. "And I don't think it's much secret that Harvick and I never saw eye-to-eye. Teammates have to work together. He was the one that won out in that deal. And that's fine. Richard Childress is still a good friend of mine."
Once the Childress deal went away, Green never got another Cup chance in good equipment. Now, his driving days are winding toward an end.
Green says he looks back without regrets.
"I've had so many moments in my career that make me smile," he said. "I feel good about what I've done. I tell my wife, I'm semi-retired. I'm at a point in my life I want to do other things."
Including doing what Kentuckians tend to do: finding their way home.