KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) NOTE: Kahne leads the circuit with six victories in 2006 and ranks second with five poles. Entering the Final Four, Kahne is seeded eighth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings, 99 points behind...
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Kahne leads the circuit with six victories in 2006 and ranks second with five poles. Entering the Final Four, Kahne is seeded eighth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings, 99 points behind leader Matt Kenseth. He's finished second, first and seventh in the past three races and has gained 174 points on the leader in those three events. He's scored more points than any other driver in the past three week, and he won earlier this season at AMS. In five starts at the 1.54-mile track, Kahne has finished out of the top five only once.
"I'm really excited to be back at Atlanta. We've got the same car we won the first race with here this season. This place is always a blast to come to. It's one of the funnest places every time we do. I don't know if we'll be able to qualify tonight. It's not looking good for that, but we'll definitely get some practice in tomorrow and be ready for Sunday's race."
DESCRIBE THE PRESSURE YOU'RE FEELING RIGHT NOW "I still feel pretty good. I feel like there's definitely a lot of pressure out there. You want to win the Nextel Cup. You want to finish in the top five. We've had a great season up to this point, and we've really had some good races in the last three races. I feel good about it. I had a fun week, was pretty busy, had some good nights and I'm ready to go racing and try to gain more points."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN GAIN 99 POINTS ON THE LEADER IN THE NEXT FOUR RACES BY JUST RACING AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE ALMOST THE LEADER CONSIDERING THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS COMING UP? "I don't really feel like that, but I feel like we have a really good shot. To come from 284 points all the way to 99 with four to go is pretty impressive for my team. Those guys have done a great job. I think we can definitely have three out of these four tracks. We ran well at Phoenix at the start of the year, too. I feel like we've made some improvements with that combination, similar to Richmond. We can make up a lot of ground just by racing well and running up front, leading laps and getting those bonus points. You look at Jimmie Johnson. He's been running pretty strong, too. It's going to be pretty exciting. It's going to come down to Homestead and hopefully four or five of us will be going for it at Homestead. The pressure will be on at that point."
IT'S IT SURPRISING TO YOU THAT NINE GUYS ARE WITHIN REACH OF THE LEAD RIGHT NOW? "I think it's a good thing because everybody has had those bad races and still have a chance to win the Cup or at least run up front in the points. That's really nice. Usually if you had a bad race, three or four did and then you'd have two or three guys that didn't have any problems. This year it's been different. Everybody has had their hard luck and hard races. We'll just have to see who does the best from here on out."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE RACES WILL BECOME MORE INTENSE? "Yeah, that's just the way it's going to be. It's going to be exciting, but if you're battling with Dale Jr. or Jimmie Johnson they're going to be battling, and that's just the way it is at this point. Everybody has got to fight for those bonus points. They're going to be really critical -- leading laps, trying to lead the most laps and then ultimately trying to win is going to be big. I watched the race yesterday (2005 Bass Pro Shops 500) and it's going to be a hard-fought race. It should be fun, but this is a track that it's good to be like that because you can move around the racetrack and mess around with different situations and change things up by where you run on the track."
DO YOU THINK ATLANTA IS HARD ON ENGINES? "I think this place and Texas (are hard on engines), but I don't know. I feel like Evernham's engine company is doing a real good job building us great engines with great power. If something happens it's because of a part. At this point everybody is really looking at what they're doing with the engines and making sure they last. It's a tough track on engines. You run a lot of rpm and you hold it a long time. Five hundred miles is a long race. This week, next week and Homestead will be races where you see engine problems. Let's just hope it's nobody in the top 10 or nobody at all. Let's just race."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE AN EDGE OR COULD JIMMIE JOHNSON TAKE THE HOT STREAK AWAY FROM YOU? "He's right there. He can definitely come in and take it away. At Charlotte we won just off having a better racecar. He started out with the lead after the final stop and I passed him and drove away. We had really similar cars, but our Dodge Charger was just better than his. That's the way Kenny Francis does it. He gives me the best car late in the race and he's done it plenty times this year. I'm really confident having Kenny make that final adjustment, that final call, whatever it is. I questioned it at Charlotte He did it his way and we won the race. That's just all team director right there."
WHY ARE YOU SO GOOD AT THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS? "I don't know. Since I came into Busch I've been better on mile and a half tracks than any other tracks, but I think the Charger is much better at mile and a half tracks this year than it was in the past. Just working with Kenny Francis, he understands what I'm looking for as a driver. I really don't know why that is. He picked it up quick. I can complain things to him, hit the track again and it's better -- right where I wanted it to be. I think the communication is huge. We really understand each other on these types of tracks and that's what's going to win you the race."
COMPARE THE CHARGER YOU WON WITH AT LMS TO THE CHARGER THAT'S WON THE OTHER FIVE RACES IN 2006 "Both cars feel really similar driving them. The only thing about the one at Charlotte is the seat is a little more comfortable for me. That's why I've always thought it was my favorite car. It doesn't have the results that 128 does, but it's won one and it's definitely the most comfortable car I have. We've done well this year. That was one of my big goals, to bring cars home in one piece. I destroyed one car this year. Other than that, we've had some wrecks here and there. We fixed them, and it's nice when you can do that. Actually my favorite car (chassis No. 131) has been fixed twice this year. It was in the Dover wreck and the All-Star race wreck. We've got 128 here this weekend with McDonald's and 131 at Texas. If Texas goes well we'll probably take 131 to Homestead for the finale."
-credit: dodge motorsports