KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) "I've been having a lot of fun. It was fun qualifying as well as we did, and I've been having fun going over watching the sprint car races. I haven't driven any. We've got too much going on this week...
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
"I've been having a lot of fun. It was fun qualifying as well as we did, and I've been having fun going over watching the sprint car races. I haven't driven any. We've got too much going on this week to be doing that. I usually drive it, but Jeff Sheppard is driving it right now. Hopefully he's going to drive a lot of races for us this year and we can get some good Mopar engines for him. He's doing well. They run in the top four every night. They ran third the final night. They're strong. They just didn't get a win. It's cool being an owner. It's cool being able to put a good car on the track. My cousin Willie runs the team. He's always helped me and worked on my cars. It gives him a good job and there are some good drivers out there without rides just like in Cup. It gives Jeff Shepherd a good opportunity to win some races. It's not really a money maker. It's a losing deal right now, but hopefully down the line we can run it the right way, win a lot of races and make a little money."
YOU WERE THE FASTEST ROOKIE AND FASTEST DODGE IN QUALIFYING
"That's a huge deal for our team. I don't know if it was a surprise. I knew we had a good car, but to be the fastest Dodge that's great for Evernham Motorsports and our Dodge Dealers team. They put in so much work getting these cars ready, it's cool being the fastest Dodge and fastest rookie. I respect the veterans and respect what they've done in racing. I need to gain their respect to race with them. I'm trying to go into it open minded and ready to race. We're just going to try to get some laps today in practice and get some experience. I don't have a ton of experience in this type of racing. It'll be good to just get out there and start making laps in the draft. Drafting is probably where I'm the most inexperienced. That's why it'll be good to run the Busch race on Saturday and get in some more laps before the 500. We'll get our Great Clips Dodge out on the track and try to be good in the Busch race, too."
YOU'VE BEEN A BUSY GUY. HAVE YOU ADJUSTED TO THE FRANTIC PACE?
"We had some free time yesterday. I watched some movies and took care of a few things I had to do and just relaxed. It's been fun. I'm young (23). I think it's going to be fun doing it all."
WHAT'S THE GOAL FOR THE 500?
"We want to run up front and do all we can. To finish the Daytona 500, all 500 miles and be on the lead lap at the end right in the middle of the pack, that would be a big bonus for me. That would be a good goal to accomplish."
COMMENT ON RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR COMPETITION
"It's going to be tough. It's going to be fun. We've got a good group of guys. Everybody's got good racecars and good owners and good drivers. A good goal to set is to try to win the rookie title. I think that's fine (that Brian Vickers is the preseason favorite to win the title). He's the Busch Series champion from last year and driving for Rick Hendrick. I wouldn't expect him not to be the favorite. I think a few other guys, everybody running for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year has got a shot at winning it. I think our UAW-Dodge Dealers Dodge has got as good a chance as anybody, maybe better than most. I'm racing for points, wins, top 10s all year long. We want to qualify good, but we want to gain rookie points along the way and try to finish out as the rookie champion. I'd be disappointed if we don't win it. That's a big goal for the year. I won't be as disappointed if we don't win a race. We'd love to win, but I think we have a lot better shot to win the rookie title than win a race because the competition level in Nextel Cup is so high. I hope we get ourselves to be a part of the last 10 races. That's what we're striving to do. We're just going to do the best we can. If we're in there, great. If not, we'll keep working on getting as high in the points as possible."
WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT ADJUSTMENT FOR YOU SO FAR?
"It's all been about the same. It's a big step. So far everything has been about the same. It's been different than last year, more to do, more people pulling on you from different directions, but it's all been good so far. This is where I want to be, so I'm happy to be here."
BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak Easy Share/Eckerd Drug Dodge)
"I think I've always been able to have fun. I'm having a good time out here. For lack of better words, I'm having a great time."
COMMENT ON RAYBESTOS ROOKIE CLASS
"The rookie crop is filled with talent, great organizations and great drivers. We came here with a Dodge that we thought was going to qualify a little better. It didn't. The guys said they fudged a little bit to make it a better car than qualifier. Kodak wants a great racecar. That's the primary goal. We came with a little better Dodge for the race
than qualifying. We still ended up 19th, so that's still a good spot. Unfortunately, I don't have any of my Dodge teammates in the 125 with me. We're going to have to fend our ourselves. Scott Riggs has been a friend of mine for a long time, and he's a Raybestos Rookie. Maybe we can team up. You can't really can't on that. We'll just go out there and prove that the Penske/Jasper engine department are that good, prove that the Dodges are that good in the aero department and see if we can't make some people go with us and earn that respect."
COMMENT ON VICKERS BEING FAVORED TO WIN ROOKIE TITLE
"He's the defending Busch champion. If you look at the hierarchy of the NASCAR divisions, there's Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck. We had a great run in our Dodges in the Craftsman Truck series last year. We had a chance to be the first Dodge to win the drivers' title. It didn't happen. That's racin'. Look at Brian Vickers. He won the Busch championship. How can you say he's not the favorite? He's with Rick Hendrick. He's got a huge sponsor. This Raybestos Rookie crop is tough this year, and starting out, I'd say you'd have to name him as one of the favorites. If I was making book on it, I would definitely have to put him as a favorite. It'd be tough to put book on the rest of them. It's going to be tough. I only bet one way. I only bet on myself to win. I did that when I had no sponsor with Dodge and the Orleans in the Craftsman Truck Series. There's only one way for me to bet, and that's to be on the Kodak guys. They believe in us. I've been with Dodge since I was 15. I know the power they bring to the table, all the wind tunnel time they bring to the Penske/Jasper team. I wouldn't put much past us."
CHEVYS AND FORDS LOOK STRONG. WHERE DOES DODGE STACK UP?
"I'm putting Junior and Waltrip at 2-3. They're too strong and we know that. Yates and Roush, whatever their deal is called, looks pretty strong. Wait until the next Daytona race or Talladega. The Penske/Jasper team, we're changing some things around. Dodge is going to put a little renewed effort into our program. We're going to put all the superspeedway stuff in one shop, basically the 77 shop. We're going to make the Kodak guys in charge of the Daytona-Talladega stuff. We're going to make a big push and the engine shop is going to make a big push on the plate racing. I don't think we're down on power at all, no matter where we go, but I think they're going to try to fine tune that power and put it in places it can be more beneficial. I know you can make power in different rpm ranges. Nobody makes more power than
the Penske/Jasper engine shop. Maybe we can get in the wind tunnel a bunch and fine tune. We're going to make a big effort for all three Penske teams at the superspeedways."
HOW DOES IT FEEL NOT BEING IN THE 62 TRUCK?
"It felt very odd walking away from their garage this morning and walking to the Cup garage. It was definitely a different feeling. I've got a coach now and my truck guys call in the trailer-trash lot. They came by and banged on the door this morning and told me to get out of bed. Those boys are my family. Steve Park is going to do a great job. Hopefully we've got that sponsor coming. The decals are here. We'll see if they get put on the truck. It's odd not going back to the hotel with the truck team every night and doing the dinners like we used to. Staying inside the track is a different feeling, and I don't like it. I liked it when I got to hang out with the guys more. It's nice to wake up five minutes before the gates open and walk in with them. It's weird not spending as much time with them. I don't know if I'm going to like that. I might have to change it. At the start, I'll definitely be with my Craftsman Truck team Friday night. That's my baby. I've got to take care of it."
TALK ABOUT YOUR TEAMMATES
"The 12 team came here with a Dodge they knew wasn't going to qualify, but look in the Bud Shootout. It's the same type of car. He was up front leading a bunch of laps. Don't put anything past Matt Borland and Ryan Newman. Those guys know what they're doing. They're going to race well. Rusty Wallace has been a ton of help to me. Our cars are more similar in theory to Rusty's than Ryan's. Larry and Shane have been working together. Billy Wilburn has been going to the 12 and 2 and keeps us updated on what's going on. The information is flowing freely. It's been a lot of fun. I don't think Ryan is going to stay in the back very long Sunday."
HOW HAS YOUR CREW CHIEF, SHANE WILSON, ADAPTED?
"Shane Wilson understands my language, and he's rolling with us. I know I don't speak the same language as a lot of these drivers, so it's a big confidence booster to me to know that I don't have to explain what I'm saying. I have Buddy Baker and Shane has Billy Wilburn. Shane is the crew chief, and this is his deal, but Billy is there for that extra set of eyes and ears. Everything is running good right now. Billy has been a big help to Shane and we can't wait to race on Thursday."