ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD SATELLITE PRESS CONFERENCE Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway KASEY KAHNE Q: Do you feel like you have a new lease on life at this point ...
ALLSTATE 400 AT THE BRICKYARD SATELLITE PRESS CONFERENCE
Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne
Thursday, Sept. 14, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Q: Do you feel like you have a new lease on life at this point coming into the Chase just 45 points back?
KAHNE: Oh, yeah. I feel like we have as good a shot as anybody at this point. We've had one of the best seasons, my best season, so far. Five wins. We've been very competitive everywhere we've went. We just had about six races there where we weren't consistent enough to be further up in the points. But, over the last month, we've been really good again, and I feel like we can carry that into the last 10 races and give these guys a good shot.
Q: It's already been said that there are going to be some tweaks and changes to the system in the future. Should more be given to winning races?
KAHNE: I guess you could. I guess you could give more to that and just make it a bigger deal. I don't know what that will exactly do, though. I think you do need to be consistent to win a championship, and you probably need to be consistent to make the Chase. You know, five wins and consistency, we would have been way up front. It's been good how it is and whatever anybody wants to do. If they change it, we'll race with those new rules.
Q: Do guys in the Chase have concern about guys that aren't in the Chase, that their only goal is to win and might take a few more chances since they're not in the Chase as much as those in the top 10?
KAHNE: I don't know. I feel pretty good about everybody out there. I think that the guys that are racing for 11th and racing for 15th are good guys, they didn't make the Chase. I was one of them last year, and all I wanted to do was win races at the end of last year. And you know, we raced as hard as we could and didn't take people out or anything like that. I don't think we'll have any problems with anybody, but you know, just racing hard.
Q: You are one of several open-wheel guys with this background here in Indiana and the Midwest that has made it in NASCAR, the Cup. We're going to see Sam Hornish Jr. run some ARCA and Busch (Series) next year, (Juan Pablo) Montoya is already confirmed for Cup. What kinds of things do these guys have in store? How tough of a transition, especially starting at the Cup level, is it?
KAHNE: I think the biggest thing is just getting used to the short tracks and the heavier race cars. I mean, just driving those types of tracks with a heavy car that slides around and it doesn't have as much downforce as an IRL (Indy Racing League) or IndyCar, whatever they're coming from. That's going to be their biggest learning curve, and once they get that, they're great race car drivers that are going to be battling up front with whoever is up front in a NASCAR race. It's going to be good.
Q: Your thoughts about your new teammate, about having Elliott Sadler jump on board so late in the season, how has that relationship worked so far?
KAHNE: So far it's been great. I think it's been a huge relief for Evernham Motorsports. We have a guy that really wants to work with myself and Scott Riggs and do a lot of the same type of setups. We've already learned a lot since Elliott's been there already, and we're looking forward to the end of the year. I hope Scott gets a win. I hope Elliott gets a win, and I hope we get some more. It can be good. I know Ray Evernham has put a lot into what we have there. Elliott's just going to be a bonus to making '07 better than '06.
Q: When it comes to racing and team orders, we actually think of Formula One more than we think about NASCAR. What can we expect Riggs, what can Elliott Sadler, what can your teammates do to help you in these final 10 races to win the championship?
KAHNE: Just what they are doing right now. Race as hard as they can and try to get all the spots they can. Every spot they get will help me. So if they are finishing up front and I'm up front, that's knocking some of the other guys back, then that's big. I'm just hoping that those guys hang in there. They're doing a great job, and we all learn together and finish up the season strong.
Q: Kasey, I'm sure you didn't care who you knocked out of the final 10 to get into the final 10, but obviously it is the defending champion, it's Tony Stewart. Here in Indianapolis, that's a pretty big deal. How surprised were you that of the guys you could have knocked out or that you could have knocked out to get that final spot, that it was the defending champ that you sent home?
KAHNE: Yeah, until the race was over, I didn't know if we were in or out or who was in or out. When I found that out, I was really surprised. Tony is as good as they get in a race car and to not have him in the Chase was surprising. I know that the 10 drivers that are in the Chase, that if any one of them missed it, I think would have been somewhat surprised as good as everyone has ran this year. It's too bad. I think Tony would have had a shot at winning the NEXTEL Cup as good as he and his team is.
Q: I'm curious about Sam Hornish's decision to start testing an ARCA car. I was wondering if at this point if there is any possibility of crossover in the other direction. Would it ever be in the future a possibility for you or some of the other Cup drivers to go in the other direction and step into open-wheel cars?
KAHNE: I don't know for anybody else. I know personally, I really like where I'm at. I really like the team I'm with; being a part of NASCAR is really awesome. I really enjoy it. You know, in time if we can win a NEXTEL Cup, if we can win a lot of races, then I would definitely hope to get a shot to do some testing in an IRL car and eventually do the "500." That's something that I've always hoped to do and hope to do before I turn 29 or 30 years old. We'll just have to see what happens, but I know I have to perform in NEXTEL Cup first and get Ray Evernham a big trophy if I want to be able to go and do anything else.
Q: What do you think would be the most difficult part of that particular transition?
KAHNE: Every bit of it. I think, just doing the proper testing and being prepared when I got into a car or into an actual race and qualifying and that type of stuff that I was ready for it. I think doing the testing and being prepared. I've driven an IRL car before, I've driven a Champ car and with the NASCAR experience now, I feel like I could do it if I had the right test.
Q: In all the other sports, we always hear about playoff intensity and that some how it goes up a notch when you get into the playoffs. Do you sense that in a race as you go into these final 10, or is it intense every week?
KAHNE: I think it's pretty intense every week. I know the last four weeks were really intense for us, and after we won California and gave ourselves a shot at the Chase, you know, going into Richmond, that weekend was really intense, too. NASCAR racing, in general, is intense and the pressure is always on to perform for the sponsors and everybody that supports us. And, you know, these final 10, the closer you get to Homestead, it is going to get more and more intense.
Q: And in the way that you had to race your way into the Chase, how much did you hear from your spotter, from your crew chief about where these other 10 guys were? And in these final 10 how much do you monitor those 10 guys during the course of a race?
KAHNE: Well, myself and my spotter didn't say a word the whole race. We just tried to race at Richmond, tried to pass as many cars as we could, go as fast as possible and see where we ended up. I know Kenny (Francis) and the team were probably looking at where they were and what they needed to do or where I was on the racetrack to make sure we were good in points and once I crossed the start/finish, they told me everything was cool and that we made it. You know, I was relieved at that point. I never asked. I never really worried about it. I could only do what I could do, and that was drive as hard as possible. In the Chase it's going to be, uh, I don't know, I haven't been in the Chase. I'm just going to race as hard as possible and make good decisions and be consistent and try to win a few more races. I don't feel like we're done winning races for the year yet.