Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, April 12,2005 Martinsville Recap, Texas Advance KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) DISCUSS TEAM MOMENTUM HEADING INTO TEXAS "Martinsville was a great run for us. Last year we...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, April 12,2005
Martinsville Recap, Texas Advance
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
DISCUSS TEAM MOMENTUM HEADING INTO TEXAS "Martinsville was a great run for us. Last year we weren't nearly as good as we were on Sunday. I feel like I've come a long way as a short track driver, and Tommy (crew chief Baldwin) and the guys have definitely given me better racecars to drive on those types of tracks. I feel like we've got a pretty good thing going right now. We've just got to keep it rolling at Texas."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE LUCKY DOG RULE? "I've been in the position to get the Lucky Dog a couple of times, and I really liked it when I was in that position. I haven't been back there too much. There's ups and downs about it, but I think it's an all right thing. The times it does get a little frustrating are at tracks when you need track position. A lot of times you'll stay out and the guys that are a lap down will be getting tires. Then they can race with you and actually beat you and it gives them more opportunities to get their lap back or get the Lucky Dog, start at the tail end and come back through the pack pretty good if they get their car handling good. I think it's all right though."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE CLOSING THE GAP ON HENDRICK AND ROUSH TEAMS? "I feel like we definitely have on the mechanical type tracks like Bristol and Martinsville. Atlanta there's a different load on your racecar than there is at some of the flatter tracks like Vegas and California where they seemed like they had the best cars. Our aero package has come a long way since Las Vegas, so hopefully at Texas we'll be able to run better. I'd say they're definitely still ahead of everybody and we're slowly gaining but it's going to take a little time. They started off good and we were off a good bit, but we've got a lot of good people making our cars a lot better than they were at the start of the season on the aero racetracks."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE AERO WAS THEIR BIG ADVANTAGE? "I feel like was probably their biggest advantage. How they were getting it I'm not sure, but they just had a better aero balance. Our cars were changing a lot more from a tight aero balance to a loose aero balance as we'd go through the corner at different times in the corner, and that's where we were getting hurt so bad. We were loose in the corner compared to them."
IS THERE ANY ONE SINGLE THING THAT HAS LED TO THE RECENT THREE-RACE TURNAROUND? "I knew it was time to finish races, no matter what we had to finish races, but the biggest thing was the tracks we've been at and the Evernham chassis and everybody putting better racecars under us for the short tracks. Now we're going to go back to Texas and see if we've fixed all our aero things. I'd say just the smaller racetracks have been the biggest gain for us so far."
DOES THE THREE-WEEK TURNAROUND TAKE ANY PRESSURE OFF? "It takes some of the pressure off. I feel like it gives us some momentum to know we can race with some of these guys again and we're getting things on track, but there's going to be pressure all year long until we get in that Chase and then there will be more than that when we do get in The Chase. It'll be a pretty interesting year after being 38th in points after three races. We really need to stay on top of it."
WHAT'S IMPRESSED YOU ABOUT ERIN CROCKER? "It's going really well. She has done a good job. She's really into it up at the shop and testing. She did a good job in her first ARCA race and at this level you have to show a lot of desire and focus. I think she wants it bad enough that she'll do that."
HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH THE ROUGH START? "It was frustrating after the first crash at California and then Vegas just to know the car wasn't any good, but I could have stayed out there and finished 20th. I could have stayed out there and finished probably as good as 10th at California, and that's a lot of points. That's two race cars I gave up because I overdrove the cars and ended up crashing. That's the frustrating part. I did it. I could have slowed up a little bit and got some all right finishes out of those weekends I didn't."
WHAT'S THE OUTLOOK FOR TEXAS? "This is one of the tracks where we were about as dominant as we were at Charlotte. We could have run that race last year, and we look forward to going back there. That's one of my favorite racetracks, probably one of the top three on my list. Hopefully we'll have a really good weekend and contend for a top five or even a win."
HOW MUCH OF A MEASURE WILL TEXAS BE FOR THE TEAMS STRUGGLING TO GET A HANDLE ON THE AERO PACKAGE? "I think that as good as the people are that Evernham Motorsports has, we're definitely going to be better than we were earlier this season at this type of racetrack. DEI and the other teams that have struggled, I don't know how they're going to be, but we're definitely better than we were. Are we good enough to go up and contend with the Roush and Hendrick cars? Maybe, I'm not sure yet, but I definitely know we're a lot better than where we were at the start of the season."
DO YOU EXPECT ANY RULE CHANGES? "I would hope they're looking at it. Our cars are really tough to drive right now. Other cars aren't. I'd say that Chad (crew chief Knaus) and some of the Roush cars are definitely in the racetrack better than some of the teams who haven't figured out, especially the Dodges with the new Dodge Charger nose."
COMMENT ON THE EVERNHAM IN-HOUSE CHASSIS "I feel like on the short tracks the car has been excellent. I think those are the tracks if you had a problem with anything to do with the chassis you'd feel it because those are the tracks that have nothing to do with the aero balance. They're a lot more mechanical. The last two weeks our cars have felt great and handled really well. It just shows we were off more on the aero side of it, but the chassis were good. I'm excited to keep working with the cars. If the team can build good racecars and we can keep learning from the chassis and people at the shop can keep learning from it, it's only going to benefit us in the future."
COMMENT ON TIME OF RACE START AT PHOENIX "I didn't know it was starting at 5, but it's a tough track with the sun like that. At the end of the day whenever it's sunny there you can hardly see down the whole front straightaway, so it'll be tough. I know that some people have made up some visor strips that you can run off your helmet. Then when it gets dark you can pull it off and it'll be clear, so some of those things will help, but that sun is definitely bright."
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON TO IMPROVE AS A DRIVER? "I just need to work on braking and steering and doing all that stuff at the right time. The Charger is so much heavier than cars I'm used to, and I just struggled on 'em. I think because of testing at different tracks and figuring out things that I like maybe more than other guys would like we've been able to figure some things out. It's helped out short track program already. We could have run top five at Bristol. We ran top five at Martinsville, and I think the road courses are going to be looking good, too."
DID YOU FEEL LIKE THE FIRST THREE RACES WERE A TEST? "I don't know. It might have been, and as a driver and team we need to show enough focus and work hard enough to get through some of those (hard) times. We went into the season thinking we were going to be as good as any team out there and the first three races showed that we weren't, so we needed to step back and focus. We've done that, and I think we're improving and getting closer to where we need to be."
DO YOU HAVE TIME TO DEAL WITH KASEY KAHNE MOTORSPORTS? "Just a little bit. We have a new shop getting built in Mooresville (N.C.), and it'll be really nice for the guys to work out of there. They've built three great Silver Crown cars, so when that season starts they'll be ready to start those races. Right now they're finishes up a couple of Sprint Cars. They're excited. I've been over and spent a little time there, but my cousin Willie pretty much runs the deal and does a good job doing it."
HOW'S THE DEAL GOING WITH KRAIG KINSER? "Me and Kraig are good buddies now. I was at Eldora (Rossburg, Ohio) both nights with Tony Stewart (for World of Outlaw races) this weekend. Kraig finished third the second night and his dad (Steve Kinser) won. He's a pretty awesome racecar driver. We're excited to have him drive our car in the Silver Crown Series and look forward to helping him get his pavement laps so he can move and do some pavement in the future."
HAS MOPAR BEEN ABLE TO HELP OUT? "Dodge has helped out some with engines and a little bit of money on the side to help our program out, and we really thank them for that. Mopar does a lot with Tony Stewart Racing and some of the other teams, and are in to that pretty deep. Dodge has helped us a little more than Mopar."
HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY HELP FROM TONY STEWART? "Really I haven't worked with Tony on any of that. It's pretty much been myself and cousin Willie. We set up the schedule and do the certain races we want to do and the certain divisions we want to race in. Motorsports Management is taking care of everything I do, and they also take care of Tony Stewart's stuff, so I've been able to learn some things from the people at Motorsports Management that have worked with Tony on his deals. My cousin Willie has really worked some things out for us. I wish I could race some of them. It would be fun and exciting to race some of those cars. There's a couple of things I've been able to do that I learned from the Cup cars. It gives my cousin Willie people to talk to and they can help out. We pretty much raced tracks that were smaller than Martinsville. I can't believe how big these tracks are anymore and when you get to a track like Martinsville it seems so small. I thought it was a really big track when I was racing in the Sprint Cars and Midgets. I guess my mindset is different these days."
DO YOU AND MAYFIELD USE SIMILAR SETUPS? "At Martinsville our cars were completely opposite. We weren't even close on springs and everything was really different. A lot of places we go our cars are different. I really don't know why that is. We both have different driving styles. They're pretty far off. They used to be a little closer, but it seems like the more we race the further off they get. I'll be up for whatever Ray thinks on that (third full-time team), but when Bill Elliott races with us I think Bill and I are closer on some of the setups. We can compare a little more, so it's always nice when Bill is driving the 91 car."
COMMENT ON ANOTHER SECOND-PLACE FINISH "The way we started out this season, I was just hoping we could get in the top 10. The last three weeks I think we've been as consistent as anybody. I was definitely happy with second to Jeff Gordon at Martinsville. That's pretty good. He's about as good as they get at Martinsville."
IS GETTING A WIN OR GETTING IN THE CHASE THE TOP PRIORITY? "They both are. Getting into The Chase is huge for Evernham Motorsports and Dodge. We need to do that. A win is bigger for our team I think than anybody really knows. We've come so close and felt like we had cars that could win races and just haven't done it yet. If we could get a win, I know it would take a lot of pressure off me because that's something I really focus on every weekend. Getting that first win would make it a lot easier to get another one after that."
YOU TURNED 25 LAST SUNDAY. DID YOU GET A CHANCE TO CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY SUNDAY NIGHT? "Yeah we tried to. We had a pretty good time until about 12:30 Sunday night. It was nice to get a good finish and go down and get some food that night."