KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) NOTE: Kahne leads the circuit with four victories in 2006 and ranks fifth in the series standings after 18 of 36 races. He's 348 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson and 131 points ahead of ...
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Kahne leads the circuit with four victories in 2006 and ranks fifth in the series standings after 18 of 36 races. He's 348 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson and 131 points ahead of 11th-place Greg Biffle.
COMMENT ON RACING AT NHIS "I always enjoy it. It's a neat track, fun to race on, lots of racing, you can pass on it. It's neat to go to different tracks. It's something that most of our tracks are not like, so it's fun to come to Loudon. They always put on a good show, lots of great fans. Hopefully we can do well."
COMMENT ON JUAN PABLO MONTOYA COMING TO NASCAR "I think it will be big for our sport. It's pretty awesome to have someone like Montoya come into NASCAR. I think he'll help out Ganassi Racing a lot, too. He obviously knows what he wants and how to get it and is very good at what he does. It'll be pretty cool to race with him. I'm excited."
DOES IT MAKE THE OPEN WHEEL WORLD LOOK DIFFERENTLY AT NASCAR? "I would say a little bit. People have looked at it differently over the last five years anyway. To have Montoya and other people talking about coming to NASCAR at some point is good for our sport. It's pretty neat."
WHAT TIPS WOULD YOU GIVE MONTOYA? "Oh, I wouldn't give him any tips. He needs to give me tips. I don't need to give Juan Montoya tips for anything. I was learning how to drive and coming up trying to figure out how to race with the best guys in NASCAR. He's raced with the best guys in the world. He'll be just fine. It's a heavy racecar. It doesn't brake as well as his cars, and it won't accelerate as fast as his cars, either. He'll figure out all that stuff himself."
WOULD DANIKA PATRICK HAVE A HARDER LEARNING CURVE? "You just never know how people adapt to things. Look at Denny Hamlin. The guy jumps in a Cup car and he's awesome from the start. Other guys it takes a year, takes two years, some people never figure it out. It just depends on the driver and how quickly they adapt to a big racecar."
WHAT KIND OF ROOKIE INITIATION DID YOU GET? "I think it depends on how you race them, too. If you come in and try to push your way around and feel like you're in Nextel Cup now and I can do whatever I want, then you're going to get pushed around a lot more. I didn't really have much of a battle coming in. Everybody I think raced me fairly and raced me like I raced them. I had good people around me and it worked out pretty good. I felt like I was just racing hard for every spot. I remember some guys raced me harder than others. It just depended on who it was. It's still like that to this day. Some guys race you harder than other guys for nothing and sometimes it's late in the race and you need to race hard. It just depends on who you're racing with."
COMMENT ON TUNNEL TURN AT POCONO "Oh yeah, the tunnel turn is way better. It's the best it's been since 2004 and that was my first race there. The tunnel turn is really nice. That was probably the best Pocono I've been at, the last race. I enjoy going there and New Hampshire. It's pretty good racing. It'll be our last race of the year there and we should be able to make some gains from where we were the first race."
HOW IMPORTANT IS RACING WELL AT NHIS? "I think it's really important. This race has been won by the points champion the last two years, too, since we started The Chase, so it's a good race to win. To come here and run well, it's a tough track. I think you can get a lot of momentum by running well at this track. We'll just figure out how to go fast. It'll be the same tire when we come back, the track will be a little bit different, but just trying to go fast and make your car go right and taking notes."
WHAT HAPPENED AT CHICAGO LAST WEEK? "It shows that that car isn't all what we thought it was. I knew it was a good car, but we hit on the setup all four of those races (victories). At Chicago, we just missed it. It was probably the worst aero track we've gone to this year, I felt. It could have been different for other people, but that's how I felt. Back in traffic we couldn't go anywhere. We'd pass one car on one lap and that same guy would pass me the next lap. It was just a matter of where you were on the track. We just missed it. I had some ideas Monday morning when we got to the Indy test and Kenny Francis had already thought of the same things I'd thought of. We'll definitely do better at Kansas and next year when we go back to Chicago."
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT NOW THAT YOU'RE A CONTENDER TO WIN THE TITLE? "We've got to make The Chase first. We've lost a lot of points over the last couple of weeks. We just need to figure out how to get some of them back, that's the biggest thing now, consistently finishing these races up front instead of consistently finishing 25th. There's really no difference for me. I come to the track to bring the car home in one piece and finish in the top 10 and that's the way it is. When we get in The Chase, hopefully we'll think about other things. Right now I just want to make The Chase. I haven't made it yet. I need to make it this year."
DID YOU GET ENOUGH TIME TO TEST AT INDY? "We got two full days. We felt like our car was awesome. I was really happy with the tire, really happy with the track and obviously our Dodge Charger was really fast. I'm looking forward to going back. I think we've got a good shot to run up front in the Allstate 400."
WAS IT THE SAME TIRE YOU TESTED THERE EARLIER IN THE TIRE TEST? "No, the tire that it ended up being was not a tire we tested. They learned a lot with different compounds, different constructions we tested with, but. we never found the right tire, and they took everything and made a left-side and right-side tire. It seemed pretty good. I was happy with them."
ADDITIONAL COMMENT ON JUAN PABLO MONTOYA "I think it's really pretty cool for NASCAR. It's good for the sport. I know I'll be happy to meet the guy at some point. He's one of the greatest racecar drivers there is, so it'll be pretty neat to have him racing with us."
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO LEARN HOW OTHER DRIVERS WOULD RACE YOU? "Half a year or something to figure out how everybody drives. It seems like it's about the same each year. We know which driver it is and who they are and how they drive."
DO YOU LOOK AT THE STANDINGS? "I look at 'em every day. I like knowing where I'm at and where Mark Martin's at and Tony Stewart and how many points separate 12th from fifth and first to 15th. I'm interested. I go to NASCAR.com and see where everybody's at. I don't know the exact number, but I know we're too close (to 11th place). It can motivate you, or it can get you to thinking you need to get your stuff together, too. I just like knowing where we're at. We've been as high as third this year a couple of different times, and now we're back to fifth. To be fifth after an average finish of about 26th the last three weeks is not too bad."
DID YOU HAVE PROBLEMS WITH THE TIRES AT INDY TEST? "We didn't have a problem. Obviously the first day when the track was green everybody was seeing some cords early, but we ran a 20-lap run the final day and didn't have a cord, didn't have nothing. That's just about a tire run there. We're happy with it."
IS THIS A PAYBACK TRACK? "I don't know what track is a payback track and what track isn't. If you're mad at somebody and you crash 'em, you've crashed 'em. It doesn't matter where you're at. It just happens. I got crashed here last year by Kyle Busch. I haven't paid him back. It's just part of racing. Things happen. Sometimes you mean it and sometimes you don't."