KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Mopar/Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) Race Winner
HOW WAS YOUR CAR TONIGHT?
"We had a great Charger tonight. Our blue Mopar paint scheme paid off this year. We've run really strong with it the last two years, this year it paid off and won the race. I'm real proud of my guys -- Kenny Francis, Keith and all the guys did an awesome job. We knew we had to lead laps tonight.
WHEN DID YOU THINK YOU HAD THE RACE WON?
"I never thought I had it won. There are so many things that can happen. I've crashed here with a great car. I never think I have the race won. We just kept focusing on not making mistakes and keeping our lead."
"It was another awesome performance by this whole Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger race team. They did a great job in the pits, preparing the race car for the win. It's cool. We finally won in the Mopar paint scheme. We've been coming here for three years to this race in that car and we've been really good every time and we finally got a win in it.
YOU HAD SOME CLOSE CALLS IN THE PITS TONIGHT.
"Yeah it was intense. It was close all night with the short pit stops and everybody still coming in as we were going out. It just made for some close calls. I'm glad that Kevin (Harvick) stopped a couple times and (Tony) Raines stopped and let us out. I was trying not to hit those guys and stop them too. "
TALK ABOUT YOUR WIN TONIGHT AND THE SWEEP?
"We really had a great Dodge Charger. From the green flag the car was really good. It was a matter of doing the right things and adjusting on it and making it better. Kenny and Keith and our team did an awesome job to get through those pit stops. It was real tough where we were pitted with cars coming in and out because the cars that we were racing on the lead lap were all really close to us. I'm just glad we didn't hit anybody and tear any fenders up leaving. We got close a couple of times. It was cool to finally win in the blue Mopar Charger. We came so close in 04 and 05 running up front and having problems and this year we definitely got it done. To pass Jimmie Johnson there with 30 to go or 25 to go was huge. He's the guy that you have to beat if you want to win at this racetrack. We got him twice and he got us once this year, so that's pretty cool for everybody at our team."
WHEN YOU DO START BANGING YOUR HEAD AGAINST THE WALL TRYING TO GET BACK IN THIS THING?
"I don't know. We've had some great races. It's just tough when you're racing with the guys we're racing with. The reason all 10 of us are in the top 10 in points is because we've all run up front all year long. A couple of guys had some hard luck tonight or things happened to them and the leader Jeff Burton didn't. He ran another great race. If he keeps running great races you're not going to be able to catch him. That's a really good team and they're doing an awesome job. We're just happy to get our sixth win and do everything we can to make up the points we lost in those first three races."
IS THE NEED FOR THE SMALLER FUEL CELLS DONE AND SHOULD THEY GO BACK TO THE REGULAR SIZED FUEL CELLS?
"Personally I think they should. I think the tires are really hard also. The first 50 laps, I think if everybody could have gotten through the first 50 laps and didn't wreck as many cars early there would have been a bunch more cars there later on. The tire is so hard, it takes so long to put rubber on it, by the time we got it on the last half of the raced I thought there was a lot more grip than there was the first half of the race. Early on that place was slippery and the fuel cell helps when it's like that. But pit road is a mess. As the race went on and rubber got down on the track, the tires weren't so slippery. I think a bigger fuel cell is definitely the way to go."
COMMENT ON THE TIRES?
"I was worried about my right front at times because of how fast we were running. My car was handling great and still I was a little worried just because of the stress or the force that you're putting on them."
WHY DO YOU HAVE THE RESPECT FOR JEFF BURTON?
"I just think his team and Jeff Burton are doing a great job. They've had some really good races this year. They've been consistent, that's why they're up front. They got that win at Dover. They're a strong team every single week. I was doing all I could to get him a lap down because I knew he'd be up front if I didn't. I got him a lap down then had to race Kenseth and it was the same situation with him. He didn't want to get a lap down either. You get racing so hard, tires are slick, the racetrack is slick. I was worried because I was leading and I didn't want to screw up. Burton got back by me and he runs third. If I could have held him back we may have been able to gain some more points on him but I wasn't able to do that. He was definitely good."
IS THE CHALLENGE WITH FIVE RACES AHEAD THE NUMBER OF GUYS YOU HAVE TO PASS OR THE NUMBER OF POINTS YOU HAVE TO MAKE UP?
"From where we are at to first would be point, but that's a lot of points to make up, particularly when the 31 team is running as well as they are. Really, we're having fun, we're doing everything we can to run up front. We've been doing that all year long and we've had some rough weekends and some good weekends. This was a great weekend and next weekend at Martinsville hopefully will be another one. We ran awesome there at the first race and had a problem late in the race. We're looking forward to that, we're looking forward to just trying to gain points and get ourselves back in the top five, then at some point hopefully catch the 31. We'll just have to see how they run through the rest of the year."
TALK ABOUT THE SIX WINS. THAT'S GOTTA BE A HUGE DEAL FOR YOUAND THE NEXT FEW RACES COMING UP ARE MILE AND A HALF TRACKS THAT YOU'VE WON ON BEFORE.
"Yeah. The six wins are huge. To come into the season with one NEXTEL Cup win and then get six more is unbelievable. We've had a great season, had some really really good Dodge Chargers and I thought when I won Texas that was the biggest win of the year. Then we came here and I won the 600 and I thought that was my biggest win ever. California was huge. It kind of gave us that little extra lift to get into the chase and it was big for Evernham Motorsports and now to win another race here is awesome. I just feel like working with Kenny Francis every weekend has been something that you don't always get as a driver and that's what I have this year is one of the best teams out there."
IN TERMS OF THE CHASE WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF MARTINSVILLE NEXT WEEK?
"That's a really important track. When I first went to Martinsville, that was a tough, tough racetrack for me. I talked a lot to Ray (Evernham), I talked to Tony (Stewart) and Jeff Gordon. There was a lot of guys that I tried to get information from and learn that track better. We tested there a couple of times the first year I raced there and in '05 we had a second place finish and this year we were running top-three the entire race when we had our bad luck. I feel I've come a long way as a driver at that track than most of the tracks we go to, and working with Kenny (Francis) and Keith (Rodden, engineer) and the No. 9 team has helped a tremendous amount for me to be able to do that. "
KENNY FRANCIS (TEAM DIRECTOR, No. 9 Mopar/Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
WHAT ABOUT YOUR NIGHT?
"I don't know what to say. It's all a blur. It was a good race. Kasey drove a really good race. Kasey had a pretty strong car. We had to adjust on it a bit to get it where it would turn and luckily I didn't get us crashed on pit road. I cut it close a couple of times and he was paying attention in his mirror and got stopped and missed the guys. It was just a good night, a good night for our engine shop. Evernham Engines, they build some good stuff for us. It made it through -- this is an extreme weather condition that's a lot different than what we've had all year. They had to make some adjustments this morning to make sure the engines lived. Our fab shop and engine department has done just a great job so it's really a tribute to those guys that we're sitting here tonight."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE FUEL CELLS?
"It's a double-edge sword though. With the soft left side tire here the speeds were a lot higher, a second faster than the last time we were here. That has put a lot more pressure on the right side tires. I think Goodyear is still pretty concerned that you're right on the limit if you try to go 65-lap straight run here you might see a lot more tire problems. I don't think any of us attribute it to any one thing. It's just that this place is so fast, there's so much load here. This has the most load of anywhere that we go to. Me personally, I'd rather see us run longer runs, but at the same time you have to keep in mind the safety."
WAS THERE ANY CONVERSATION BETWEEN YOU AND TODD BERRIER ABOUT THE SPACE BETWEEN THE PITS?
"I think we had two close calls with the 29 and one close call with the 96. The first time was the 29 and we saw him coming. One time I saw him coming and I told Kasey to go because I thought he could beat him. Kasey saw him coming and hit the brakes. Harvick at the same time hit the brakes. We just got all out of sequence there. What ended up happening is the 29 spotter came down to Kole, Kasey's spotter, and said 'Hey, what we'll do here is when we see you doing gas only we'll let you go.' I was trying to dodge them and they were already planning on us pulling out in front of them. Fortunately it worked out. With the 96, we just didn't expect him. I saw him out at the grass and I said go. Then about that time he started coming toward us and we got side by side. Luckily Kasey was aware and they missed each other."
WHAT'S THE BALANCE BETWEEN TRYING TO WIN RACES AND KEEP YOURSELF IN THE CHASE?
"All the tracks are different. But this track here, as far as reliability, is probably the hardest track we come to in terms of load on the car and load on the parts. With the weather conditions we had today, this is the best air we had all year and the motors were making the most power they had all year. We had to make some choices particularly in regard to our right front suspension settings. We aired toward the side of reliability. The engine shop made some choices on our tune-up package that was toward the reliability side and it all worked out. We really wanted to get a little bit better fuel mileage than we did but they had to make the choice they had to make to ensure the engine made it to the end. You definitely have to use your best judgment knowing that every track is a little bit different."
IS THE 31 DOING ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY FROM YOU IN TERMS OF FUEL MILEAGE AND WERE YOU CONCERNED WHEN THE NO. 19 HAD A MOTOR PROBLEM?
"We really didn't know what kind of mileage we were going to get. We had a little bit of a struggle in practice -- we only got one fuel mileage reading. We watched the weather in the Busch race last night and they had a good idea of what was going to happen tonight, so we made some choices this morning to where we wouldn't get quite as good of mileage. We really didn't know what to expect, we just had to go through our first few stops and see what we've got. It really wasn't quite as good as what we had hoped for, but we really didn't know what it would be going into it. I didn't know what other people were going to get -- I didn't go around and ask anyone this week. Usually we all talk about it. I didn't know what happened to Elliott, no one came down and told us. We were obviously concerned. But, I still don't know what broke. We just hoped that nothing happened to us."
RAY EVERNHAM (Owner, No. 9 Mopar/Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
TALK ABOUT YOUR WIN TONIGHT?
I'm really proud of these guys. Not just these two guys but the whole team in general. They fought pretty hard tonight. You make a lot of pit stops with that small fuel cell. So making the right decisions on when to put tires on or when not to put tires on, add fuel. They made some really good, heads-up calls tonight. Up and down pit road, because we have had some problems in the past weeks, I think everybody pretty much used their heads and guys were stopping for one another. That was good.
I think it means an awful lot to have six wins and a Mopar paint scheme on there today. With Kasey doing his burnout there, there were some good Mopar parts on the motor because I heard it on the limiter. I know the motor guys were nervous. We were a little concerned when everybody started to break motors near the end. Because the air was so good tonight that the cars were making so much power that the motors started to break. But ours held up. The guys did a great job.
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT JEFF BURTON'S POSITION NOW AS SOMEONE WHO HAS WON THREE CHAMPIONSHIPS?
"I can't speak for Jeff and what he meant by that but what I think he meant by that is that they're running well enough and if they don't make mistakes, the likelihood of someone catching them is not going to happen. The thing that you worry about is making a mistake that puts you back in the pack. We always talk about the points system punishes you more for dropping out than its does reward you for doing good. That's what they've got to watch. He hasn't had his bad race. Mark's had it, Jeff's had it, we've had it, and Jeff Burton has run really well. What you've got to do is make sure you don't doing anything that causes that by making a bad call or having a part failure or something that's self-induced.
AFTER WHAT HAPPENED AT TALLADEGA, WERE YOU CONCERNED WITH THREE OF YOUR DRIVERS IN STARTING IN THE TOP FIVE?
"We've talked about things, about what each's priority is as teammates. I'm really fortunate to have three guys, right now I think I have the best group of drivers that I've ever had. They get along great. They're smart, they talk. I'm sure that Kasey and Scott talked before the beginning of the race. I really try not to get involved. I kid around and tell them 'Now look, whatever you do don't run into one another, but you can race as hard as you want.' Unfortunately for Brian Vickers last week I don't think that was intentional. Hopefully someday my cars are running good enough that we'll probably go through that. I believe that's just racing and I try not to get in the middle of what the guys have got going on. I'm just grateful that they're professional enough and smart enough to work it out on their own."
I WAS WONDER THIS MIGHT BE YOUR BIGGEST TIRE BILL WITH AS MANY PIT STOPS AND AS MANY TIRES AS YOU HAVE BEEN THROUGH TONIGHT.
"The one good thing about the tires here is that every time we had a pit stop, we didn't have to put them on so I kind of like the racing at Charlotte on this tire. Normally when you go to Darlington and places like that you can run up the tire bill, but really the tire bill here is probably not going to be as bad as it is there. At least I hope its not going to be.But they we're changing tires on every stop so the biggest thing was probably tire temperature. If you could keep the tires cool you could still go pretty fast. Goodyear brought a real good tire here for this race."
WHAT KIND OF TALK DID YOU HAVE WITH KASEY EARLY ON IN THE CHASE AFTER HE SAID HE DIDN'T THINK HE COULD WIN IT AFTER ALL THE BAD LUCK?
I think we had a couple tough weeks and I told him to keep his chin up and control the part you can control and try and win everything you can. Sometimes we get too focused on the things that we can't control and that brings us down and then we lose focus on the things that we can control. These guys have done a great job all year long and come a long way. I Just don't want to see them focus on a bad race or two or the shoulda-coulda-woulda's. Anything can happen. At the beginning of the year, truthfully, our goal was to win races, sit on poles, and finish in the top-five in points. That was our goal. I'm not saying that we can't win or aren't or aren't ready to win a championship, I'm just saying that we're on target to do that. To win six races in a season as a car owner, that's great. I think I only had six or seven going into the year, total, so I couldn't be more proud of where we're at. Every year Evernham Motorsports grows. Every year it seems like we get a little bit closer to being one of the top teams in the sport and this year these guys are showing it. I took a lot of heat for what I did, changing and swapping things around. We've stuck by the process that we've put in place with the team directors, the car directors, the engineers. We've shifted some people and things like that. In the end we're getting results and I feel good about that."
-credit: dodge motorsports