Atlanta: Dodge - Evernham interview

RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports) NOTE: Evernham Motorsports unveiled the No. 9 and No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW/ Popeye Dodges Friday morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway, celebrating Popeye's 75th anniversary with King Features, ...

RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports)

NOTE: Evernham Motorsports unveiled the No. 9 and No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW/ Popeye Dodges Friday morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway, celebrating Popeye's 75th anniversary with King Features, Action Performance and Popeye. The Evernham Dodges will run the Popeye paint schedule at the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway in July.

COMMENT ON KASEY KAHNE "This young man (Kasey Kahne) has probably as much talent as I've seen out of anybody in a long, long time. He can get the job done on the racetrack, but what amazes me most about him is his maturity and the way he can communicate what the car is doing. When you find someone who can communicate what the car is doing while they're still learning the racetracks and stuff like that, they're normally pretty special. I haven't seen that in a long time."

IS KAHNE A GOOD CLOSER? "Yeah, and really that's the difference between somebody that's a champion and somebody that's not. When the stakes get high or when the pressure is on, and they perform, that's what makes the great ones great. He has all the potential to do that."

HOW MUCH ARE YOU TEACHING HIM AND HOW MUCH DOES HE ALREADY KNOW? "I think it's a little bit of both. I've tried to forewarn him about some stuff when we talk about things I've seen. I let Kasey and Tommy (Baldwin) figure out their setups on the car. I just throw some things out, the way the racetrack is going to go or some things he feels but might not understand what it is. What has amazed me sometimes on Monday I'm ready to tell him about stuff that happened on Sunday and he'll call me and say it to me before I can say it to him. He's really paying attention."

HAS HIS RECENT SUCCESS BEEN OVERWHELMING? "I don't think it's gotten overwhelming yet, but what I'm concerned about is I can see the snowball picking up momentum. I've tried to warn him about that. He's a good, level-headed young man, and he's got to understand there's only so much you can do. The No. 1 priority is driving the racecar and do as much as you can or as much as you want to besides that. There's going to be a time when he's going to have to say no to some things because there are only 24 hours in a day. Running Busch and Cup he's going to be getting worn out physically. I don't want to put too much pressure on him. I hope our organization is ready to handle this kind of attention."

CAN YOU PUT INTO PERSPECTIVE WHAT KASEY HAS ACCOMPLISHED SO FAR? "I've got to go back to the way I used to be with Jeff (Gordon). You don't think about that stuff. I don't want him to reflect on that. I want him to reflect on we get paid by Dodge and UAW to win races. That's what we're supposed to do. If you stop and reflect on how good you've been doing, it's really counter productive. He just needs to worry about his most important race, and that's going to be the next one. Maybe when he's 35 or 40 he can stop and reflect on what he's accomplished. You certainly don't want to get the focus on reflecting what you have done. In reality, we haven't done that much. We've still got a long way to go. We're having a good run right now, but we've still got a lot of things we want to accomplish."

TALK ABOUT KASEY'S MATURITY OUTSIDE THE CAR "I wasn't involved in the Ford-Dodge thing, so I can't answer that, but so far he's done everything outside the car I've asked him to do. I asked him to get on a workout program and a nutrition program. We asked him to come to the shop. He communicates with his marketing folks and public relations people. He's on time. He represents the company well. Outside the car, he's done everything I've asked him to do. He just wants to focus on driving the Dodges right now."

DISCUSS NEW TECHNICAL ASPECTS IN CUP "Every time they make a change, some people get on it earlier than others. Last year the Chevrolets were way ahead of the other pack a long time. They might claim they're behind a little bit now. I don't know if I see that. A lot of it comes down to shocks and springs and driver comfort and how your aero balance is when you build the car. When you make a big change like whacking a bunch off that spoiler and making a big change with the tire, it can throw away all your setups. Look at how much we struggled at the beginning of last year when they changed a little bit of template on us. We were junk the first part of the year. At the end of the year, same template, same rules, we got going good. We were just a little behind. I think the people you see behind now might be good in a little bit. There's an edge of the envelop, so somebody is going to get there fast. I don't know that the Dodges can get any better, while everybody else can get better. We've done a lot of homework, and sometimes it's the luck of the draw. The rules favor your stuff early, but this sport is so competitive. They're going to catch up. They've got probably more to gain than we do. We might have some little gains, but we reached the edge of the envelop maybe quicker than the other guys."

WHAT'S THE STATUS OF THE NEW CHASSIS? "I was happy overall with the performance. We didn't get the results we wanted at Vegas. We still have some work to do with that thing. I think it was headed for a top 10 finish. We kinda hurt him in the pits, and then we had to pit for fuel. We're going to bring another brand new one to Texas. This is Stage 2. Stage 1 performed, but not as well as we wanted. I think we're on the right track, but we've still got some work to do. We'll see at Texas. You need a little bit different stiffness at Texas because of the banking and speed than you would on a flat track like Vegas. I suspect the car will be a little better at Texas. Then we've got to go and figure out what we'd change to take it to a flat track."

WHAT'S THE ADVANTAGE OF BUILDING YOUR OWN CHASSIS? "You've got your delivery option. You've got quality control. If you want to make a little change, you can custom make the things. If you find any little advantage at all, you can keep it."

COMMENT ON TEAMS TALKING ABOUT YOUR DODGES LAST WEEK "That's an honor. I'm happy again, people looking at my stuff and taking pictures. I'm still the same guy. I didn't go to sleep. I didn't go away. It's like if you're not winning every week in this business, people forget about you. We've always had some pretty neat stuff. We're going to do everything we can do within the rules and within the templates and make our stuff good. The same things win races, good aerodynamics, good horsepower and good drivers."

CAN YOU BEAT MATT KENSETH THIS WEEK? "I don't know. We've got to beat 41 other people besides Matt. Matt is doing a real good job. He's certainly the favorite going in, but we're going to try to beat him for sure. Matt's got his act together. We've got to make sure we get our act together. It's not about Matt and Kasey. You've still got the 18, 8, 24, 48 and some other Roush cars, 97 and 16, you've got some good racecars out there. We've got to focus on more than just Matt and Matt has got to focus on more than just us."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Kasey Kahne