Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, Oct. 12,2004. KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) NOTE: Kahne, the Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader, has five runner-up finishes in 2004 and ranks 14th in the series standings, 187...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, Oct. 12,2004.
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
NOTE: Kahne, the Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader, has five runner-up finishes in 2004 and ranks 14th in the series standings, 187 points out of 11th place. He started 19th and finished 12th in May at Lowe's Motor Speedway. He qualified second last week at Kansas and finished 12th in the Evernham Motorsports Dodge.
"We had a really good car at Kansas and ran up front all day. The car kept getting tighter and tighter getting into the corner and we kept trying to free it up all day long to help that. We were off pit sequence a little bit with the rest of the field. We had to pit toward the end and got back in the pack and got a flat right rear. We just never got back to the front. We led a lot of laps, but we just never got back for a top-five finish. We had a good enough car to still finish 12th after starting 22nd or 23rd on the last final restart.
"I look forward to Charlotte. It's a track I always enjoy going to. The Busch car ran good there the first race and so did the Cup car. It should be interested. We didn't qualify good there. We drug the valence so bad around the whole track it lugged the car down. I look forward to getting a shot for another Bud pole at Charlotte this weekend."
HOW MUCH OF YOUR JOB IS FUN AND HOW MUCH OF YOUR JOB IS WORK?
"Really, I think most of it is fun. I enjoy it. It's all work. It's all things I have to do every day, but to look forward to a race weekend and to know what I get to do every weekend and the things I do during the week for sponsors and for the race team, the commitment you make to the team and sponsors during the week is really pretty easy when you get to run 500-mile races at different tracks every week."
DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE A SHOT AT WINNING THE BUD POLE AWARD?
"I think it's going to be tough. It's hard enough just to get one pole, let alone three in the last six races. That'd be pretty tough to do, but we're going to try. I love qualifying and the Busch car last weekend we should have been on the pole for sure with that car. We made a mistake with the front valence decision right before qualifying. We missed it with the Cup car just a little bit. We were just a little bit too free to go fast enough, and Joe Nemechek went out at the end and put down a great lap. The track was a little cooler when he went out and that definitely helped, but he put down a good lap. Hopefully we have some opportunities. Charlotte, Phoenix, Atlanta, Homestead and Darlington, I think we'll have a shot at all of those tracks."
WHICH OF THE FINAL SIX TRACKS DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE THE BEST SHOT TO WIN?
"Probably our best shot would come at Charlotte, Atlanta, Darlington or Homestead. Every one of them we have just as good of a shot as the other one."
DID YOU FEEL DISAPPOINTED NOT MAKING THE TOP 10 FOR THE FINAL 10 RACES?
"Yeah, I did. We worked real hard and we felt like we had a shot every week the last two months to finish up front and get in that top 10. It was a lot of pressure and a lot of hard work going on. When we didn't make it, it was tough to handle, but we still had a decent season up to that point. It hasn't gone as good since, so we need to really step it up and get some good finishes and try to win a race. We look forward to next year and trying to get in that top 10 next year."
WHAT'S A NORMAL WEEK LIKE FOR YOU OFF THE TRACK?
"Yesterday we went to Detroit for the day. We took off around 8 in the morning and got back around 7. Today, I've got this and not too much today. I'm going by the Busch shop and Cup shop today. I have an appearance tomorrow morning and another one in the afternoon, and then we've got the race weekend. I stay pretty busy. Usually we try to get Mondays off after two races. We run between 800-900 miles a weekend. It's nice to take that Monday off."
WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST OVERWHELMING THING FOR YOU THIS YEAR?
"I'd say just the fans have been the most overwhelming. There are so many of them and so many of them want an autograph or picture and will do anything to try to get to you. It's really pretty cool and exciting when you can make a little kid or family feel pretty good when they wait for awhile and you can make them feel good. I enjoy it a lot, but at the same time, it's the most overwhelming. To have so many people trying to talk to you is completely different than anything I've ever experienced before."
DO YOU GET RECOGNIZED WHEN YOU GO OUT IN PUBLIC?
"On race weekends you go out and you definitely get recognized, or I do, a lot more than I did earlier in the year. I went out to dinner last Saturday night in Kansas City and probably 10 or 15 people recognized you through the time you're sitting down eating. Actually they're pretty nice to you. You sign a few things for some of them when you're leaving or sign a few pictures. It's pretty exciting for everybody. I really don't mind it. If you go out and eat you know it's going to happen. You have to be ready for it and enjoy it. If not, stay home and eat in your motorhome."
ARE YOU CONFIDENT ABOUT WINNING THE RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR TITLE?
"I certainly hope so. We've been the best rookie car all season long. The guys on our team have done the best job. Hopefully we'll end up getting the Raybestos Rookie at the end of the season. I think we deserve it for sure if we keep running well the rest of the season and win a race or two. I'll be disappointed (if we don't win a race this year). We've had too many shots to win. If we don't, I'm already a little disappointed we haven't won yet. I think we should. We've had opportunities and just haven't got it done, so we definitely need to. If we don't it's going to be a letdown, but there's always next year and the year after. There were two or three of them (five runner-up finishes) that probably total up to one or two seconds behind the leader. You run second that many times and it's pretty difficult to take. That's part of it. We were the dominant car all day long at some of those races and ran second because of caution flag laps or getting caught in the pits under a yellow and going a lap down and having to fight back and get back to the lead and there's oil on the racetrack. A lot of things happened that we had no control over. It's pretty disappointing at times when you think about that. You've just got to keep working hard to make sure that doesn't happen again and we do get a victory before the season's over."
DID YOU FEEL LESS PRESSURE AFTER THE RICHMOND RACE WHEN THE FIELD WAS FINALLY SET FOR THE FINAL 10?
"Yeah, I felt a lot less pressure because we're not in there. We were right on the line getting in. It's too bad. I'd rather have the pressure all season long. We felt like we had a shot to finish up front in the points, but we didn't, so there's not as much pressure running for 11th. I wish there was so that we could run better. We haven't run quite as good as we've wanted to the past two or three weeks."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE A ROOKIE NOW OR DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE BEEN DOING THIS LONG ENOUGH NOT TO BE CALLED A ROOKIE ANY LONGER?
"I definitely feel like I've been doing it long enough. We'll obviously still be a rookie until this season is over, but I don't feel like a rookie. I remember the first few races, and I felt like a rookie starting beside some of those guys and not being ready for what was going to happen those first few laps. Now I'm getting pretty used to everything that goes on, and I look forward to it every weekend."
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR DESIRE TO WIN CAME FROM?
"Probably my dad, just growing up it was always about whatever you did, do it right and do it the bet way you can. He was a really hard worker on everything he ever did, and I want to do what it takes to win races. That's what I do, and that's what I live for. I'll do whatever I can to try to win one. It's just a matter of time until we do."
WHAT'S IT LIKE WATCHING THE VETERANS RETIRE?
"It's interesting. I enjoy racing with these guys. They're as good as any of the young guys for sure. The veterans can still run up front every weekend, and I've been able to learn a lot from them racing with them this year. It's fun. The guys I've watched growing up racing in NASCAR and now getting to race with them is pretty neat before they do retire."
ANY FUNNY INCIDENTS THIS YEAR WITH YOUNG LADIES APPROACHING YOU?
"There's definitely been more ladies or ladies approaching that just goes on because of what we do I guess. Nothing too funny, just more of it."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED MOST THIS YEAR FROM RAY EVERNHAM AND JEREMY MAYFIELD?
"Probably just the focus and how you need to be focused every week if you want to do good in the sport. The desire and focus is what Ray Evernham has for sure. I think he's really helped Jeremy with a lot of things in that direction and he's helped me with a lot of things, too. Probably just mainly the desire to focus and win races and to finish up front and keep the team and sponsors happy."
WAS FOCUS A PROBLEM FOR YOU?
"Focus isn't a problem for me at all, but still you see Ray Evernham and how hard he focuses at his shop everyday. No matter if he's at the shop, his office, hitting a punching bag. It doesn't matter. The guy is focused all the time. If you want to do the things Ray has done in this sport, that's how you need to be. I keep getting more and more focused every week I think."
DO YOU THINK YOUR ROOKIE RECORD WILL EXCEED DALE EARNHARDT'S?
"I really don't. I think Dale Sr. was the best racecar driver there's ever been in NASCAR. All he ever wanted to do was race and win. I never really got to meet the guy, but I definitely don't think I can match what he did his rookie season. We'll keep doing as much as we can. To be mentioned in some of that stuff is neat for me."
DO YOU PREFER RUNNING AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY AT NIGHT?
"I think the night races are fun and especially fun at Charlotte. The fans that come and the way the track is put together, the lighting, everything about it, it's a pretty entertaining, fun night to race under the lights. The Busch race will be great, too, the first one under the lights. The Cup race will be awesome on Saturday night. I look forward to it. I've watched 'em all in the past and watched Bill Elliott just about win that race last year in the 9 car, so hopefully we can get that 9 car back up there and win a race for Ray."
IS IT EASIER TO SET UP A CAR FOR A NIGHT RACE?
"I would say it is to a certain point. It's definitely different than the setup you can run during the day. You can't be super fast with the same setup at night, I don't see how. At least we couldn't the first race this year. Jimmie Johnson was pretty consistent, but that's Jimmie Johnson at Charlotte. He's as good as they get there."
DID YOUR OPEN WHEEL EXPERIENCE HELP THE TRANSITION TO NASCAR?
"The horsepower, the engine power, the way the car handles was a pretty big difference. They are different, but the racing and other cars on the track wasn't as big a difference. The Busch Series is a really good series, tough competition and very aggressive drivers. The cars and stuff were different, but the race itself wasn't a whole lot different. Every week when I get out of the Busch car and get in the Cup car it's just more power there, and that's what you like if you came from a winged sprint car, a Silver Crown car where they've got a ton of power and not a heavy racecar at all. I really enjoy that part of it for sure."
DO YOU HAVE ANY TESTS LEFT THIS SEASON?
"We have one left. We're going to test at Homestead sometime in November."