KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) NOTE: Fresh off his first Cup victory last week at Richmond, Avon Products, Inc. today unveiled the cover of its new men's catalog at LMS, featuring the 25-year-old Evernham Motorsports ...
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Fresh off his first Cup victory last week at Richmond, Avon Products, Inc. today unveiled the cover of its new men's catalog at LMS, featuring the 25-year-old Evernham Motorsports driver.
"Growing up (racing) in the dirt, I'm trying to get cleaned up a little bit. It's a good opportunity to use some of the Avon products, some of the Avon new active wear men's products and clean up. It's been a good week for everyone at Evernham Motorsports. It was a big week. It was nice to be that busy and have the victory to think about. The pit crew won a total of $95,000 last night (at the NASCAR Nextel Pit Crew Challenge), and it was pretty awesome. I got there just when it started and got to watch all four rounds. The guys won each round pretty easily. It was exciting to watch. They did an awesome job. I was looking forward to today to come out here and qualify and do the pit stops and everything for the Challenge tonight. I don't know if that will happen today."
HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE ALL-STAR RACE? "I look at it as a fun weekend. We get to have the pit stops and two-lap qualifying. It's just exciting. No points, just about the money and for the fans. When it's like that, you can put on a great show. I think all the drivers enjoy it. I know I do. With the inversion, three segments, it's exciting. You don't have to worry about points. You can try something and if it doesn't work, you wait until the Coca-Cola 600 next week. You have to run every lap as hard as you can, and you don't hold back much. That'll be how it is Saturday night. You're not going to hold back at all. You're going to go as hard as you can every lap and see what you get at the end."
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT GETTING HURT? "It's another race we want to win. We want to do everything we can to win and put on a great show for the fans and have fun. It's a fun weekend. Qualifying and all the pre-race stuff is going to be a ton of fun. Then when it comes to race time, I'm going to do everything I can to win. You don't think about anything else when it comes time to race. The HANS, the soft walls, the helmets, the seats, they've done so much the last three or four years to prevent injury and help keep the drivers safe. You can't think about that. You've just got to race and do everything you can to win races. That's the way it is. If you're a NASCAR driver or Indy car driver or whatever you are, you can't worry about that. You've got to go out there and do what you can when you're on the track."
HOW MUCH INCENTIVE IS THE MILLION DOLLAR PAYDAY? "It's a huge incentive. It'd be pretty awesome to win it. If we're able to win that, I'll have to go buy a house. I have an apartment that I share with my brother. It's a two-bedroom, 1,100 square feet and it's pretty cool, but I guess we're outgrowing it a little bit."
IS IT NICE TO ALREADY TO IN THE ALL-STAR RACE? "It's really nice. That was our last chance last weekend. We had a great racecar, great pit stops, everything went perfect all night long, and we were able to get in that way. If not, we would have tried to win the Open, but to get in early and be able to do the pit stop where the team is so much involved in how fast your qualifying lap is makes it pretty exciting."
HAS WINNING FELT AS GOOD AS YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD OR BETTER? "I've won a lot of races in other series. You win a race and you're excited. The next morning you wake up and you go on with your week and what you need to do after that. I've been excited all week. I haven't thought about getting ready for next week. I've been doing all the stuff that goes along with winning our first Nextel Cup race, and it's been a lot of fun."
DO YOU THINK THE FLOOD GATES WILL OPEN NOW? "I don't know. I certainly hope so. We've come so close for so long and to finally get it done last week at Richmond and have a lot of good tracks we run well at coming up, it could be an opening. Who knows? We might go on a little tear here."
DO YOU LIKE THE JUNE STRETCH? "I like all those racetracks. We tested at Sears Point, so we're going to have a much better race out there this year than we did last year. We were fast at Dover, Charlotte, Michigan, so we look forward to having some good results."
DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY FOR THE ALL-STAR RACE? "We'll talk strategy tomorrow with Tommy after we find out how everything is going to go down because of the rain. It'll be something to think about the way they invert the race. When it comes down to it, we might try to win each segment. I was in it last year because of Bill Elliott winning in the 9 car. I really enjoyed it. We went from 15th to 7th in about two laps. Then we were in the wreck on the frontstraightaway. It wasn't the best of nights. We got the car repaired and finished sixth or so. It was a fun race. The whole way they run the race, the way the fans get excited, the way Nextel and everybody makes it such a big weekend is a lot of fun."
HOW DO YOU FEEL THE GRASSROOTS RACE FANS HAVE ACCEPTED YOU? "The Earnhardts and Jeff Gordon and a lot of the other guys...., but I think we've somewhat made a name for ourselves already coming in in a year and a half and trying to do it the right way. We try to race clean and hard every single lap. I think we've got some respect from the other drivers and teams, and a good deal of fans out there still like the 9 car."
IS THERE ANY PRESSURE ON YOU TO PROVE YOURSELF? "Every time I get in a racecar I want to prove myself. I want to do whatever I can to finish up front. We've been working on that the last year and a half, ever since I started driving for Ray Evernham. We won last week, and we're starting to get back in the points, trying to get in the top 10 Chase for the cup. We're doing all we can to do good each weekend. Every stop from here on out is a key stop. We've already had four races where we didn't get hardly any points. We need to start finishing each race and start finishing each race toward the front. Richmond was a huge momentum, and Darlington was a huge momentum before that. Charlotte is a great racetrack for us. We ran strong here every single race last year and never got the results."
IS WINNING AS MUCH RELIEF AS EXCITEMENT? "It's relief, excitement, everything. It's been awesome. It's been so much fun talking about winning, getting it past, not having to answer the questions. When are you going to? Why haven't you? What do you need to do differently? All those questions have been asked the last year and a half, and it's nice to finally get it out of the way and look on to the all-star race, the 600 and Dover after that."
DOES YOUR HEAD FEEL CLEARER? "No, my head feels about the same. I'm not that messed up. I just feel we got something off our shoulders. Everybody is more excited. We've got momentum, and that's the main thing."
JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)
NOTE: McMurray has recorded top-10 finishes in the past three races and ranks ninth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings. He'll compete in the preliminary Nextel Open on Saturday night and try to earn a berth in the main event -- the NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.
"I've only been in the All-Star race once, and last year in the Open I had one of my best races with Jeremy and Sterling. Even though I ended up finishing third, it was one of the best racing we've had. We were sideways and loose for 10 laps, and that was a lot of fun."
WERE THOSE LAST 10 LAPS WHAT THIS WEEKEND IS ALL ABOUT? "It's a cool position to be put in when they give you four new tires and 10 laps. Handling is still big, but you can drive as hard as you want. From what I've heard the way the track is now, tires don't give up. You can drive as hard as you want. Everyone seems to think it's going to be better, but it's going to be different. It's Charlotte and everybody is used to running on the white line. From what I've heard, the middle to the top is where it's faster. It'll be interesting to see how that works out. They said the amount of grip we have is amazing. The times have been fast, and typically in testing the times are nearly as fast as when it comes time to do it."
WHY DIDN'T YOU TEST HERE? "We test at racetracks we feel weak at, and this is a racetrack we typically run in the top 10 at. We brought a new car here again, and we didn't see a point in testing a car that we weren't going to bring back and try to race. I don't know why everybody tests here. Everybody always tests at Charlotte. It's a good track for us, and we didn't see a point in doing it."
LAST WEEK WAS THE SECOND TIME THIS SEASON A NON-HENDRICK OR ROUSH CAR WON. IS THAT BECAUSE IT WAS A SHORT TRACK? "I think the week before at Darlington, Ryan (Newman) was going to win. Roush and Hendrick are two of the best teams in our sport and they have nine drivers between them I think. Those guys are going to win a lot of races. It's just they won a lot at the beginning of the season I guess."
COMMENT ON THREE STRAIGHT TOP 10S "It's certainly a lot more consistent than it was at the beginning of the year. It seemed like we'd run in the top five and then run 25th the following week. It's been very consistent the past three weeks. I tell you what the biggest thing is with our team right now. Our pit crew has been incredible. Last week at Richmond we gained two or three spots on every pit stops and it wasn't from other guys having bad stops. We just had really, really fast ones. The guys finished second last night (Nextel Pit Crew Challenge) in the overall deal. We have one of the best pit crews. I passed as many cars in the pits last week as I did on the racetrack, and that's a big motivator when you're in a racecar. To pass a couple of guys every time you come in, it makes it a lot easier. I don't understand when you come to Charlotte for race week, they keep you busier than in any other city. A driver's media schedule in Charlotte is busier than ever, so I didn't get to go last night."
HOW MUCH WILL THE OPEN HELP YOU NEXT WEEK IN THE 600? "We're going to use this as our test. I guess that answers the other question on why we didn't test here. We can use the Open as a test session, and there's really no better condition to put yourself in than actually racing, so it'll be a great test for the 600."
DO YOU LIKE NIGHT RACING? "I enjoy night racing because it means you get off Sundays, usually. Saturday night races are great because it's almost like you get a weekend off. You get a day off on Sunday even if you get home at 3 or 4 in the morning. You're still pumped up enough to go out on the lake and play golf or whatever."
HAVE YOU LEARNED A LOT IN THREE SEASONS ON THE CUP CIRCUIT? "I have probably learned as much from Rusty in the past six months as I have the previous two years. He has an incredible outlook on all this, and we've become good friends. We've discussed the issue I've had the past couple of years. Rusty can relate to that because he has gone through that in his 20 years of racing. I guess I've learned how to deal with that. I don't know if I deal with it the right way, but fortunately for me when we discussed rumors they were all positive rumors for me, not necessarily that I was losing my ride and didn't know where I was going. It was I had other race teams wanting me. Those aren't hard rumors to deal with. They're pretty easy."
WHAT ELSE HAS RUSTY TAUGHT YOU? "I guess I didn't understand how busy you are and all the appearances you do. When I look at my schedule now compared to Rusty, I have a very easy schedule. I see how busy he is and how often he's out of town. I call him every Monday and see how his weekend went, and he's in Chicago. He's everywhere. I guess what he has taught me if you have to go out of town on Monday or Tuesday to make the most of it. I was like, 'I just want to be home.' With Rusty, he goes and finds a good place to eat dinner or finds some friends in that town to hang out with or just finds something interesting to do instead of coming home and saying, 'I've been out of town for two weeks.' He'll be like 'I went to eat dinner at this really good restaurant.' He's always got something good to say. He has made me have a different view of how busy you are. I think Rusty is one of the most respected drivers in the garage area. It's not hard for me to get along with him. He's into everything I enjoy. However old he is, we still have the same interests. I look up to him a lot and it's easy for me to get along with him and I think Rusty looks at me and he always looks at me and says I'm hip. I'm not but he thinks I am. I really enjoy being around him, and he enjoys being around me or he wouldn't hang out with me, I don't guess. I think we talk the same lingo. We're into racecars and setups and springs and shocks. We get enjoyment out of that part of our sport, and I don't know that other drivers do. We just enjoy talking, but there's such a fine line because we drive for different teams. I drive his Busch car so I think both of us are careful about what we share. We only share things that we don't think will benefit the other."