Bristol: Kahne, Francis Friday wake-up call

KASEY KAHNE (No 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Avenger) ARE YOU GLAD TO HAVE KENNY FRANCIS BACK? "Yeah, I'm looking forward to that. We're going to start over a little bit here. We got ourselves in a little hole. It'll be nice to hand ve Kenny back...

KASEY KAHNE (No 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Avenger)

ARE YOU GLAD TO HAVE KENNY FRANCIS BACK? "Yeah, I'm looking forward to that. We're going to start over a little bit here. We got ourselves in a little hole. It'll be nice to hand ve Kenny back and get things going the way they need to be going. I think communication (will benefit). We understand each other really well. When I explain something he understands, and when he explains something I understand. It just seems like the process is quicker. We don't have to try as much. We don't have to try as many little things to find out what we need. It makes the process a little quicker."

HAS KENNY'S ABSENCE CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR SLOW START? "It's been a role. It's been part of it, but it's not the reason why we're where we're at. Things happened, and we've had some things wrong, but we've had some (good) cars and we should be much better in the points than where we're at. We've just had some bad breaks. I just know I'm way back, and we should be. We haven't been out of the mid 30s in the past three weeks. I know where we're at without even looking. I have normal things going on, and I haven't been down at all, so I think we can turn it around still. It's not like we're out of The Chase. We're out of the top 35, but we can get back there this weekend and next weekend we can keep gaining. I feel pretty decent about it. It's not the end of the world yet."

DO YOU HAVE A BETTER APPRECIATION FOR THOSE GUYS OUT OF THE TOP 35? "The only thing I look at is how they are every single weekend. I'm interested in who makes it and who doesn't because it's a battle of such good race teams. I know exactly what they do and all that. I don't know what it feels like because I haven't been there, but I can imagine."

HAS THIS SEASON BEEN WHAT YOU EXPECTED SO FAR? "We expected to have a crew chief and we expected to win races. We expected all kind of stuff, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. It's a pretty tough deal. Some teams have it and some teams don't and we expect to have it this week."

COMMENT ON THE COT "I think our tests have been really good, and I think what we've learned and the way we've tested and things have been good, so what happens from now on is going to kind of be new to everybody. How it races and how it races with all 43 cars on the track. It's a lot of unknowns and we'll find out this weekend and next weekend and when we get to the bigger tracks is when we'll figure out what this car is all about. You can have your fenders halfway torn off your car here and still be fast. It's not nearly as big of a deal as

aero-type tracks or some of the other tracks we go to. This track and Martinsville are probably two of the best tracks to start with to get a feeling and see what you have. I guess we ended up have one of the best three cars here (at COT test), maybe not the first two hours. I was like 'wow, this is a lot different,' but I was never upset. I knew it was just a matter of working things out. Actually, the last half of the first day we were as good as anybody. It's still a race car, and it's still four wheels, and I don't see it being a huge difference this weekend. I think the bigger tracks will be a huge difference, but this weekend and next weekend I don't think you'll see much difference."

WHAT KIND OF RACE DO YOU THINK WE'LL SEE? "I think you'll see a normal Bristol race. I think there will be more cars nose to tail. If you have to move people or if you can actually pass with this car, that's what we'll find out. I think it'll be a little bit more compact. They will be a little tighter together, not because they're racing for position, more like passing a slower car. I would think there would be a few wrecks here this weekend."

WHAT'S YOUR COMFORT LEVEL WITH THIS CAR? "It's pretty good. I feel really comfortable. It's similar to what we've had in the past at these tracks. I don't really think you have much more room. They say you do, but from where things are and from where the arms sit, you don't have any more room. It's all the same. Maybe if you would take a tape measure from outside the car and then to where you sit, yeah, you're going to have a little more room, but all that stuff is covered in with parts and steel and everything else they put in that area. From a driver's standpoint you have no more room. Head to roof you have lots more room. That's why these cars look so weird because there's so much room up there. It looks like half truck, half car. That's what makes 'em look so weird. I don't think the wing and the front spoiler thing, whatever that's called, makes as much difference as the roof being a roof off an extended cab Dodge or something. My stuff's the same. It has to make sense, and you want to sit the same as you sit in other cars."

ARE YOU DRIVING DIFFERENTLY? "Last week I was driving defensive, just trying to be smart about everywhere I went on the track. I was super loose and we weren't very fast the first couple of runs. I was doing that and then you have a restart and everybody comes together and you don't have any extra space and then you get in a wreck. You hit the wall, you hit the wall. That's the way it is. You just drive as smart as you can and what you get you get."

HOW FRUSTRATING HAVE THE LAST FEW WEEKS BEEN FOR YOU? "They haven't been good. They've been frustrating when they happened and then it's over with. We've had good weeks trying to prepare and be ready for each track."


KENNY FRANCIS (Team Director No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Avenger)

OPENING COMMENTS "I'm looking forward to getting back and getting going for sure. I've been lonely. I still help them on the computer and stuff and help them figure out the setups for the car. We've been using our Sprint cards pretty much to help each other."

HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT HOW YOUR COMMUNICATION SKILLS HELP KASEY? "Yes, I guess that's been a little bit of a struggle, something you get used to. That's something I had to work hard at when I first started the crew chief job four or five years ago. Talking on the radio and it's a lot harder than it might seem to get a good rapport going over the radio. People that know me know it's just a lot different in how you act when you try to talk to a driver during the race and know when to update him with the right information. He's got to keep that information flow going back and forth. He's got to tell us what the car is doing. We've got to tell him how the race is progressing and the big picture of what everything looks like. I think that's one of the biggest things. It took me a long time to get that really figured out how to do that. That's a lot more important I think than people give it credit for."

COMMENT ON THE POINTS SITUATION "We're sweating it out, trying to jump a couple of spots here at Bristol and get back in the top 35. Hopefully we can have a good run. We're certainly due for a good finish. We've had some good runs. We just haven't finished the races. I think our cars have been decent. We haven't been as good as we wanted to. You're never as good as you want to be. We're just trying to get better and hopefully we can come out of Bristol with a decent finish."

DO YOU THINK THE COT WILL HELP YOU? "It was pretty good. We were pretty good at the test, but that was a month ago. It's different weather conditions, but hopefully we can figure it out. We've got a few more things to try. Hopefully we'll hit on a good balance and be decent."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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Series NASCAR Cup