KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger Featuring the Ask Dr. Z Paint Scheme) NOTE: Kahne holds third place in the series standings with four victories in 2006. The 26-year-old driver from Enumclaw, Wash., will make his 89th career ...
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger Featuring the Ask Dr. Z Paint Scheme)
NOTE: Kahne holds third place in the series standings with four victories in 2006. The 26-year-old driver from Enumclaw, Wash., will make his 89th career start Saturday night in the Pepsi 400.
ARE DRIVERS WILLING TO DRAFT WITH YOU NOW? "It really has nothing to do with that. It has to do with who's fast and who's not, who has good cars and who doesn't. Yeah, late in the race you might leave a young guy because he did something that made you mad earlier in the race. When you're trying to get to the front you're just looking for fast cars. If they catch you really fast, they're not going to bump draft you and push you to the front. They're going to pull out and pass you and you're going to be behind one or two spots or a whole line depending if a whole line passes you. It's all about your car. It's all about if it's fast enough whether people want to go with you or not, not all about, but the majority."
IS THAT WHY PEOPLE ALWAYS GO WITH JUNIOR? "I'd say Jimmie Johnson would be a good guy to get behind, too. He's won a bunch on these kind of tracks recently. It's just get behind the good guys and they'll try to get rid of you as soon as possible because they know they're better. You have to really watch your mirrors and try to keep them behind you, try to keep them pushing."
DO YOU HAVE ONE WORD TO DESCRIBE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LAST YEAR AND THIS YEAR? "I'd say team. That's the biggest thing. Our team is really good. Kenny Francis is really good. It seems like every week when I get in the car it's really pretty close from the start, and we just fine tune it from there. We haven't had that, so it's really nice to have that and feel like we have a shot every race. I feel like I've matured some. I'm a little more patient. I think a little more before I make a move. At the same time, it's a lot easier to do that when you know you've got a car that can pass and you can pick your passes and you can pick when you do things. Last year, it was like I do it now or I'm going to get passed. I think that got us in trouble once in awhile. I think when you've got good cars it makes everything a lot easier."
ARE YOU SURPRISED THINGS WORKED OUT SO WELL SO FAST WITH A NEW TEAM? "Things went perfect for my team. It's the same group. Me and the engineer are the two new guys. He came from the Busch team. I came from the Busch and Cup teams. We just joined basically Jeremy Mayfield's team, and they're probably still doing the same things. We're just communicating better."
10 RACES TO GO UNTIL THE CHASE. ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT IT NOW? "Not really. You can look at the points and see we could be out of it real quick with a couple of bad races. It's way too close. I think it if I was Jimmie Johnson I would feel pretty good. Where we're at, we're not far out of fifth and not far out of 10th real, 100 or 150 points (actually 176 points ahead of 10th place). There's a lot of things that can still happen this year."
IS THIS A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM? "It's definitely a team that can win races and go for the championship. I don't see why we couldn't do it if things went our way. The year Kurt Busch won the championship if the tire had fallen off later he probably would have run right into that wall (at Homestead). He'd have zero championships. Last year Tony Stewart spun out in practice and didn't hit anything. He races the same car in the race and wins the championship. Every year it's like it's meant for one driver. When it gets down to the end of it that team and driver is going to get it."
IN YOUR ROOKIE SEASON YOU HAD SO MANY RUNNER-UP FINISHES. DID YOU EVER WONDER WHEN IT WOULD BE YOUR DAY? "I kinda did, but at the same time I was pretty happy. For a rookie team we were pretty good. As we got things figured out we were pretty good. As NASCAR caught up with some of the things we were doing it seemed like we blowed up. It pulled us back and took us until '06 to get going again."
WAS IT UNFAIR TO COMPARE YOU WITH JEFF GORDON? "The only comparison I ever saw was I did the same kind of racing he did -- Silver Crown, Sprints, Midgets and Busch and Cup. The only other comparison was working with Ray Evernham. You can compare a lot of things there with Wings and Midgets and tracks we won at, but as far as Cup comparisons there really isn't any. You look at what he's done and what I've done, I've done nothing compared to his statistics. We probably drive similar at times because that's the way I learned. I would hope I could win the championship at some point, but he's got 74 wins and I've got four. I've got 70 to go. Oh, I've got five. The competition is so competitive now. If you'd win 10 races in one season in 2006 or 2007 I think that would be unbelievable. Biffle last year did awesome and he got six. It's really tough to do that. Jeff used to get 13 or 14. When you do that you're going to get 75 wins. I just don't see that. Maybe if I race 25 years and have some six or seven race win years I could get up there. I really want to go back and race some of the stuff I did before with my own teams. I feel like if I went back to that stuff I could get a sponsor and could do it right. Me and my dad did it right, but it was tough. We had a couple of engines and a couple of cars and did as much racing as we could. Now I think we could do that and kick (butt). It used to be just me and my sister and cousin and we ran everything."
DID YOU WATCH JEFF GORDON AS YOU GREW UP IN RACING? "Jeff was kinda always the guy when I was growing up. Jeff was young, and I thought it was cool. I watched him all the way to Cup. I watched and wanted to be like him when I was younger."
DO YOU THINK SOME YOUNG DRIVER IS WATCHING YOU NOW? "I've kinda wondered about that. I've been on some TV races, too, back when I was younger and stuff. I don't know. You meet some people and they say that. You also meet fans that say they're your biggest fan. I don't know how much of it is true. Sometimes your biggest fan has a Dale Jr. hat on. I don't know how that works."
WHAT HAS KENNY FRANCIS BROUGHT TO THIS TEAM? "He's an engineer. He's a racecar driver. He's a crew chief and he's team director now. It's like he has everything. He's really focused and he really listens. I respect him a lot, and I think our team is good because of that. We've gotten along good all along. Last year when I was struggling, and we were coming home from races on Ray's plane, I'm explaining why I'm slow and this and that. Half the guys are sleeping. The other guys are looking out the window, and Kenny is looking straight at me trying to listen, trying to learn to make his team better. He wasn't trying to make my team better. He was trying to make Evernham Motorsports better and Jeremy and what they had going on. He was always listening and always interested in making things better and go faster."
ARE YOU ABLE TO SYMPATHIZE WITH CARL EDWARDS? "I never got it turned around, so I don't know. I think they'll figure it out though. They're a pretty good team. They had a tough start to the season, but they're going to be a real good team this week and next week. I know how I felt. It's no fun, especially when you won three races the year before. I didn't win any the year before and he won three. It's got to be upsetting him a little bit, but at the same time he's a pretty competitive guy. I don't think it's getting him down. He'll be fine."
COMMENT ON BEATING TONY STEWART FOR YOUR FIRST CUP WIN AT RICHMOND "I thought it was great racing with Tony and for him to congratulate me. He's the guy you want to be in Cup because he's up front every single weekend and it's nice to beat that guy. You feel like you did something. The biggest thing was you don't have to answer the question 'when are you going to win?' anymore because it was really getting old. We were doing all we could. We just didn't win until that race, and it was nice to get that over with."
WOULD WINNING AT DAYTONA MEAN ANYTHING SPECIAL TO YOU? "It would mean a lot. It'd be great to win here. I think Indianapolis would be the best place for me to win. (Charlotte) was my biggest one, most unexpected one. I knew we were going to be good, but I didn't expect to win that race. It's just a long race and Jimmie Johnson is really good there. We were third of fourth with 30 to go. I never would have expected during that race that we would pull away at the end. I thought we had our hands full, and we did, but we got it done."
DOES QUALIFYING WELL INDICATE HOW YOU WILL RACE? "It will just tell us where we're going to start tomorrow. We're either going to be in the middle or the back. We're not going to be in the front. When we qualify good, e usually race good. The way we do it this year, we do all race practice and then Kenny makes his adjustments and we do one qualifying run. We usually pop up toward the top of the board. We get it close in race trim and he knows what to do from there to make it the same balance. I think when we qualify good it's because our car was good in race practice and that should keep you up front."