NASCAR NEXTEL CUP Teleconference Tuesday, March 23,2004. Kasey Kahne and Casey Mears Teleconferences CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge) "Our whole team has gotten a whole lot better. We've improved on the bodies, and we've got a new front...
NASCAR NEXTEL CUP Teleconference
Tuesday, March 23,2004.
Kasey Kahne and Casey Mears Teleconferences
CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge)
"Our whole team has gotten a whole lot better. We've improved on the bodies, and we've got a new front clip that's been working well for us. Our engine program has really stepped up this year. We have a little more experience, and that makes us easier. Last year, if we had the same type of day at Darlington we started out having a couple of days ago, we probably would have ended up 35th. That would have been based on my experience level and where I was at last year. Having run some of these races before, we had a really good car, but we had a bad pit stop that got us a lap down. Before we knew it we got caught up in a crash and we were 30 something. The guys did a good job repairing the front end of the car. We raced hard, got our lap back and ended up 15th. I'm not real happy with 15th. We've got a taste of these top 10s now, but we had such a good car, considering the circumstances it was real good day for us."
TALK ABOUT JIMMY ELLEDGE
"I think he's had a positive effect on my career. Jimmy and I have always got along. Even before we got together on the 41 car it was kind of funny. When I was running the Busch car a few years ago, Jimmy and I were out on the lake and he said he'd like to work with me. It's funny how it worked out and we got to work together last year. Jimmy being one of the younger crew chiefs, it makes it real easy for us to get along. Our attitudes are similar. Even though he's a young crew chief, he's experienced. He's been a key to me learning and developing my skills."
WOULD YOU HAVE LIKED MORE TIME IN OTHER SERIES?
"If you had asked me this last year I would have said absolutely. There's so much to learn, but now, looking back on our plan, our plan was to run these two years. We knew last year was going to be a struggle. That valuable experience I got at the Cup level last year put me ahead for this year versus say if I had just run Busch. I think the optimum way to go is to run two years in Busch and maybe some truck experience, and maybe by the time you get to Nextel Cup you've had four or five years of stock car experience under your belt. I only had one year. For sure, it was early. If you wanted to do it the best way, you'd probably want more experience at the lower levels, but looking back at it, getting that year under my belt, even though it was a struggle and didn't paint the right picture for us, it gave me the experience I need to run well this year. I feel very comfortable this year, and I wouldn't change anything. It's a totally different lifestyle to adjust to. When I ran Indy Lights we ran at most 16 races a year. Last year I think I ran over 50 races. Just to adjust to that lifestyle is something new, along with the media attention and being in the top series in motorsports in the United States. There's a lot of attention focused on you. When you have a bad weekend, you hear about it in the press the next day. Adjusting to all that took some time. There was a ton of things to learn last year. The cars, the tracks, your home life and traveling. There were a lot of things to adjust to. The team can take my comments more seriously. Last year I was in such a learning mode that I was taking advice from those guys. You're not much of a leader when you're trying to learn from everybody else. I think this year I've taken a more active role in knowing what I want out of the car. Jimmy Elledge has been a big part of that. We've honed our communication skills, and I'm able to give a lot better input on the car and situations outside of racing."
WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT COMING FROM A RACING FAMILY?
"I would say ultimately it would make it easier just being in the loop of things. Being around motorsports your whole life and meeting the right people and watching your dad and your uncle go through good times and bad times and learning from those experiences. All those things are positive. My dad and uncle have been a huge help to me, and it's paid off. I learned things a lot earlier in my career than if I hadn't been in a racing family."
HOW DO YOU FEEL WITH EXTRA PUBLICITY?
"I have been fortunate watching my uncle and dad and seeing that kind of media attention. I've been here first hand and seen it grow. I don't feel like I've never seen any of it. It's not a huge surprise. I've had to learn how to deal with the media. I'm comfortable with it. It's part of the sport, and I don't think too much about it. My experience with the media has been great."
HOW HAS STERLING HELPED YOU?
"Sterling has always been a big help. He's not the kind of guy who's going to walk over and say here's something you might want to try, but he's always been there to answer your questions. He's a great guy. He has a good heart and he's done a lot of little things to help here and there. You can't replace that. It's really having a guy like Jamie. There's a competitiveness between us, but we have an open relationship. That will push our team to bigger and better teams."