Teams began testing at Richmond on Tuesday and will test from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Testing runs through Thursday, but teams are allowed to test only two days in the three-day session. Kahne and Busch won the two most recent races at RIR. Kahne scored...
Teams began testing at Richmond on Tuesday and will test from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Testing runs through Thursday, but teams are allowed to test only two days in the three-day session.
Kahne and Busch won the two most recent races at RIR. Kahne scored his first career victory in last year's spring race at Richmond, while Busch won race No. 26 last year at the D-shaped .750-mile track. Busch is also the defending champion of the Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, the next stop for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit on April 22.
Kahne ranks third in the series standings following his second win of the season last Sunday. He's tied with Mark Martin, 46 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson. Kahne was 23rd in the standings at the same stage of the 2005 campaign.
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
"We're trying to get ready to come back. This is always a great race for the fans and the drivers enjoy it, too. It's a lot of fun. The track gets to where you can race pretty hard. We're just trying to get our car as good as we can. We've got a couple of days here where we can do that. We'll probably learn more in the afternoon and tonight being that's when we'll be racing. Hopefully we can take some of this and bring it back to the race. We haven't run that well this morning, but we still have a lot of time to go. This was my first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup win, and it was a great night for us. We battled with Tony and Kurt Busch and had a great Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger and I enjoyed racing out there."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO ALREADY BE LOCKED IN THE CHASE BEFORE THE 26TH RACE AT RICHMOND? "I think it would be great if we could be in that spot where we didn't have to worry about this race, but if it is a race we need to worry about to get in that top 10, it is a good track for us. It's nice to be able to test here. It'll help us for the first race and the second race. Right now we've been running good. We've had some great runs this season, and we're doing a good job in the points, too. We just need to keep that up and hopefully we won't have to worry so much about the second race here like we have in the past and just trying to get into that final 10."
IS THE 26TH RACE ONE OF THE KEY RACES OF THE SEASON? "I think it's a race that's good. It depends on where you are. The Daytona 500 and Brickyard are such big races. I remember in 2004 we had a shot at making the final 10. I think we went into the (Richmond) race 11th and could have easily made the top 10 if we had run better. We finished 26th and didn't make it. Jamie McMurray was right there. Mayfield ended up making it. It was close. That brings a lot of attention, and it makes for a fun race. Everybody gets pretty nervous at that point in time. It's that time of the year, and hopefully we can prepare and get in that final 10."
IS PATIENCE THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS THIS SEASON? "So far I've been able to do that. I've had much better racecars. Our Dodge Chargers have been handling a lot better. It takes a lot of work to get the Charger to where it needs to be in order to run with the other manufacturers each week and the top teams. I think Evernham Motorsports has done the best job of all with the Chargers so far. Those guys have really worked hard. Scott Riggs was just as fast as I was at times last week at Texas. Jeremy is right there, too. They've just been having some deals there they've got to work out with the team and getting everybody on the same page. Once they do that, I think Evernham Motorsports is going to be just as good as any other team, that's what I'm hoping anyway.
"Last year when you're running 20th, you want to get up front. You want to get in the top 15. You want to get points, and your car is capable of running 20th. Sometimes I was going overboard and not getting the results we needed. At the same time, it's tough when you're that far back. You want to do anything you can to get another position and not finish out of the top 20. This year our cars have been great. Our practices have been better. We've been running toward the front. You don't have to force it. You don't have to push the issue. We had some close calls at Texas. It's just give and take at times and get 'em later on. Wait for three laps and then pass the car. I'm doing a better job, and I'm also getting equipment that's faster, so it's easier to do when you're in that position."
CAN YOU APPLY WHAT YOU LEARN HERE TODAY TO THE NIGHT RACE? "I think it'll be pretty close. The track to me felt really similar to how it felt two weeks ago in the Busch car. We'll have some practice at night, too. Most of the time at night, the track tightens up a little bit, so if you can have your car a little bit free as long as it's turning good it's just as good at night, maybe better. The good thing about this test as long as it is, we'll get to see what the car does at night. I imagine it'll be the same as it's been the past two or three years."
CAN YOU TRANSFER WHAT YOU LEARN HERE TO OTHER TRACKS? "It's tough to take much from here to the other ones. We won here last year and at Phoenix we were terrible. I don't even know if we made it in the top 20 there and finish the race. Those would be the two I would think would compare the most for size and speed. It didn't work. I guess some tracks are their own track and you have to figure out how to get around each track differently."
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR YOUR BIRTHDAY? "Actually yesterday, I had some stuff to do in the morning, a couple of meetings, and after that I hung out at the sprint car shop with the guys that work on that car. We ended up out on the lake about four o'clock wake boarding. I'm a little bit sore today. I haven't wake boarded in four or five months."
DID YOU FIND SOMETHING WITH THE CHARGER? "I really don't know how to answer that. I think we found something. I think our bodies are better. I think there are some things that are better. I don't think what we found made the difference that it's made so far this season. I think that's been more of the team I'm working with. I think the information Evernham Motorsports is getting is getting better from the three teams working together. Myself and Scott Riggs have been running similar setups, and they're fast. I think it just has a lot to do with the setups, and it just took us awhile to figure out what setup would work best for me."
HAVE YOU GONE FROM A GUY WHO CAN WIN TO A GUY WHO CAN WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP? "I don't know about that. I certainly hope so. That's what we shoot for. That's why we do this, to win races and ultimately win a championship. I think I'm getting that experience and would hope some day I'm in position to do that. Right now I feel like winning races would be great and just keep the points rolling. If we can do that and get in these final 10 races you never know what will happen. I'd be pretty excited if we get in because I think we can run good on a lot of those (final 10) racetracks."
YOU WON BOTH RACES THIS SEASON IN THE SAME CHARGER. YOU ALSO WON THE POLE FOR THOSE TWO RACES. IS THERE SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT THAT CAR? "It felt good at Atlanta and Texas. It's two for two (poles) and two for two (race wins). It was brand new at Atlanta, and everything has been perfect with the car the way it handles. Everything has been great. Our Vegas car was good, too. We finished fourth there. We were kind of on the verge of running a little better than that. The only car that I thought wasn't as good is the California car. We haven't run that one since, but the Vegas car and the Atlanta and Texas car are similar. I'm hoping we can run it (winning Charger) at the All-Star Race or the 600 or maybe both if it can make it through. I think that's the next banked track. I imagine at least one of those weekends we'll be back in that car."
KURT BUSCH (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
"I heard this morning that we're going to be here until 9 o'clock tonight, so I wish I had got more sleep last night. It's great to have a chance to practice under the lights, especially when both of our races are here at night. It's been a great season so far for us with communication with the new team. We're running well on the speedways and the short tracks. We know we've got some work to do on the mile and a half intermediate tracks. It's a good thing and a bad thing that we're testing here today at Richmond. It's good we can polish up with my new team and get our short track program a little better. It's bad because all the other teams get time to test at this racetrack where I felt I had a little bit of an advantage. Everybody is going to catch up after this time around. Good start so far, but we're not quite where we want to be in points, so we'll keep working at it."
COMMENT ON 17TH RANKING IN STANDINGS AFTER SEVEN RACES "It's just the beginning of April, seven races in, so it's still real tight in points. We were just knocking on the door for the top 10 and with one bad race we drop all the way back to 17th. If we have a couple of good races in a row, that will put us right back in position to be steadily right there and ready for the top 10. There's a long way to go. Once you get to June 1 and start running into the summer months of Dover and Pocono and Michigan, that's when we'll worry about where we are in the points. We still have plenty of time to go until that."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO GREG BIFFLE ABOUT THE TEXAS SITUATION? "I tried to reach out for him and left a message on his phone. I'm sure I'll see him this afternoon. Biffle and I are both very competitive racers, and we both look for the same real estate at the same time, yet I was trying to yield as a lapped car out on the track. Things like that happen and we'll definitely try to smooth everything out and move on to the next race."
WHAT IS ONE OF THE UNWRITTEN RULES ON THE TRACK? "I would say there are probably 100 different unwritten rules as far as driver etiquette and to giving somebody a break or to go into your pit stall deep so as not to block somebody in when he's trying to get out whether he's on the lead lap and you're running for 30th place and you've got a pit box in front of him. There are things you do out on the track when you've got a faster car and you come up on somebody some of the times they yield out of the way or some of the time they race you for that position. It depends on what mood you're in or if you've made The Chase or if it's race seven or race 26 or if it's the last few laps at Homestead like Jimmie, Jeff and I had in 2004. It was pretty intense."
HAS THE LAST THREE WEEKS BEEN MORE DIFFICULT BECAUSE OF YOUR PREVIOUS RELATIONSHIP WITH KENSETH AND BIFFLE? "It has and it hasn't. I can't say that racing has changed my outlook because I'm racing with a different team. I still try to race any competitor as if they're the same guy whether they're new on the circuit or old on the circuit. Racing for the win at Bristol is something that's very special when it's the last 10 laps. If you're a lap down car trying to get out of the way of the fast leader at Texas, no matter who it is, an accident happened and I feel bad about it. As for old teammates, we definitely had great times together. Biffle and I grew up running trucks together. When I moved into Cup he shortly followed. It's a great relationship and not just one race will tear it apart."
WHY TEST AT RICHMOND? "I think the vision NASCAR has is to make the 26th race more competitive. That's why we're here testing at Richmond. That's the cutoff for The Chase. They want to make it an equal opportunity for everybody when it comes down to the wire whether you're in or out. There are no excuses. You had a full two-day test to get ready for it. Some teams needed to test and some don't need a test at a short track. I'd much rather be at Texas today, trying to figure out what we did wrong with our car because right now we're behind on the mile and a half tracks. It's fun to test at night because we race at night."