KASEY KAHNE, Driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger Have you made major changes on the car? "Yeah, that's what we've done, but they told me that's what we've done all year. We've made a ton of changes. We never know how far, how...
KASEY KAHNE, Driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger
Have you made major changes on the car? "Yeah, that's what we've done, but they told me that's what we've done all year. We've made a ton of changes. We never know how far, how close, what's the same, what's different. There are so many different pieces to mess with on a car. Supposedly we're back to how we were last year and we've got a lot more power, so that'll be good."
How special is this place to you and how challenging is it to you? "It's really special. This is my favorite track to come to each year. It's the track I want to win the most at. This place is difficult to drive, there's a lot to it and each corner is different. It's just trying to get your car to handle at each end and making the adjustments. To do that is the difficult part. It's tough. It's a tough place. I really enjoy it."
Do a lot of your childhood memories have to do with this place? "A lot of them, yeah. It wasn't stock cars as much as it was Indy cars. Just watching this place. The month of May -- when it was a month of May -- I'd get off school at 3:30 because you had final hour on 'RPM Today' until 6 p.m. so I had to get home as fast as I could. It was hard to make but I did the best I could. I remember little stuff like that and this was the track I paid more attention to than any other track that stock cars or Indy cars went to."
Ray Evernham says he will be more focused on competition once the Gillett deal is done. Are you ready for that? "I think he'll be able to help a lot, but at the same time we have of great people. Obviously some things this year got mixed up or screwed up at times, hopefully Ray will step in and make sure that stuff doesn't happen. But when it comes down to it, Kenny Francis and the guys who gave me the opportunity to win six races last year are still the guys who are going to give me win hopefully this year and in the future. Ray will be a big part of making sure things go smoothly and we don't hopefully lose how good our cars handled. But Kenny is our main guy for the No. 9."
Why have you been so loyal to Ray Evernham? "I like Ray, I like driving for Ray. I like how bad he wants it. He told me from the start that, if I stick with him he'll give me the equipment and the people to win a championship. I believe him. I think he will. I'm going to stick with him for a while and try to get that done."
How long is a while? "At least through 2010."
Is there a trend where teams come here and do well then go on to do well the rest of the season? "I think definitely this is a track where the good teams running for a championship run good at. Hopefully this year that trend changes, because we're out of the championship. Hopefully that will change and we'll have a good run and get to mix it up with the teams that have been so strong this year -- the Hendricks and everybody else. It's a great place and all the good teams step up for this track."
Did you consider the 2006 nose you ran at Michigan a success and is that why all three teams are running it this weekend? "I consider that a three-day change, a two-day change, throw it on as quickly as possible and we got to Michigan. The car turned way better, there were a lot of good things about it but it threw off the whole balance of the race car. We had a lot of more downforce and it turned better, so things were better on that side of it. Over the last two weeks we put that back on and hopefully put the rest of the package together to where we have overall balance and not just a positive front end. Balance, a good balance, is what you look for and hopefully that's what we'll have. That's tough to say until we get on the track but we'll see. We're definitely a lot closer than what were at Michigan."
Will you run that old nose later on? "We're going to run that nose for the rest of the year. We've struggled with the other one and haven't been able to figure it out. Ray said we're going with the '06, it's something we know, it's something we ran well with, and we're going to make it work as good as possible to the end of the year."
What are the challenges now without a weekend off for the rest of the season? "It's no big deal. We just race through the end of the year. To take a week off was good. I had some fun. I took some time to myself just doing whatever I wanted. I've been trying to get caught up the last day-and-a-half. I got home Thursday morning and it's been non-stop trying to figure out what's going on with the teams, the cars, the sponsors and everything else. It's been a lot of catching up. I feel pretty good about it. Those guys have done a real good job and I haven't been a part of it at all. So it's pretty cool they stepped up."
So you have no idea what is wrong with the cars? "That's what it seemed like this year. Ray's been a big part of it the last couple of weeks. For me, from talking to people, it sounds like we've figured some things out that it's definitely different than what we had last year -- and a pretty big difference. Hopefully they figured out what's wrong. The early part of this year, it's been like 'Hey, we don't know what's wrong.' Nobody did and now I think they've really gotten down to the detail and figured out some pretty big things.
How can a team that has 20 engineers go the wrong direction for the whole year? "You tell me. I have no idea. I have no idea how that happens but it does. They're all human and we don't know if even that's problem. We won't know until we run good and say 'Okay, that was wrong and this is right and that's why we're running good'. Hopefully this will be the weekend and we'll say we just lost it in going the wrong direction. If you look at it, when you go in a wrong direction and keep trying to make that better and better, you're getting further and further away from where you were. You go back to where you were and go a different direction and you can get lost. It's a tough thing. If it was easy there'd be a lot more teams winning races.
Have you been involved in any kind of sponsor talks for next year? "I really haven't. I've been gone for two weeks. It's been nice to be gone. At the same time, I think we're definitely looking for maybe a sponsor at some point. The Dodge Dealers have done a great job and we like that. But, there's an opportunity to maybe have a different sponsor, too, at some point, and be in a Dodge Avenger in the future. I don't what sponsor that might be?
You haven't gotten a new wardrobe or anything? "I haven't gotten anything new. I still have all of my same old clothes. I did get this new vitaminwater t-shirt, it's my new favorite t-shirt, but that's it."
Is it good to give the guys a new avenue to work in? "I don't think that putting the nose on is going to do it. We found out at Michigan that that wasn't the secret. It's more of a balance issue, it's more about setups and simulations, things like that. I think the nose, and putting everything together will be better at some point -- and the engine package. We've gained a lot, a lot of places this week and it gives myself a lot of hope. I think we've made the right changes."
What can you do as a driver to get your team out of a slump? "The only thing I think a driver can do is give the information they can give. It's the only link from the crew to what the car is doing. During a race or a practice session during a race weekend you've got to give them the right information and then just try to be happy about things and have a good attitude. And realize that just because I'm upset because I'm running bad, the team's upset, too. They don't want to look bad and run bad. They're working as hard as any team out here if not harder than most teams out here to run good. It's just trying to keep a good attitude and tell the guys you appreciate them."
Last year you guys were happy when you won. Are you guys happy this year when you get a top 15 or something? "I'm happy when I don't hit something. This year, a top 15 would be great. That would be an awesome weekend for us. Last year if we didn't win the race we were upset. It kind of gets you back to reality thinking we need to have different expectations. We still try to win every race but a top 10 is really good. There are so many good teams that a top 10 is really good."
How did this happen and what impact does it have on your team? "I don't know. I feel like you win races in '06 and you don't in '07, and you have a lot of hope. The team realizes we can if we keep working and the driver realizes we can if we keep working together. Hopefully we do. I've been pretty close to my guys for the last three years, I don't feel like I'm any closer to them now than I was last year. I just feel like we're struggling more and as long as we keep working hard together we'll come out of it and have some good times."
For you personally is your and Ray's relationship the same that it's always been? "It's always been good. We have to talk a lot more now about the situation. Both of us have had a really good attitude about it. He's been cool to work with. It hasn't been a problem for me."
How much does your previous experience help you here? "It's a good track for us. It's a good track for Evernham Motorsports. I've always run good here since '04, '05, '06. I just come into this place happy and wanting to run well, wanting to figure out what's going on and that's all you can do."
Do you know how they figure out these driver ratings points? "I don't know what it's based on at all. I haven't seen them so don't know where I am."
Who were the drivers you followed when you watched the Indy 500? "There were a lot of different ones depending on how old I was and what year it was. I just remember watching it mostly, watching the times, the track speeds, the lines on the racetrack. It was so cool to me. That's what I looked forward to. I wanted to get out of school as quick as possible to get home to watch that. That's probably not what most kids do, but maybe some kids."
-credit: dodge motorsports