KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) TALK ABOUT YOUR FRAME OF MIND GOING INTO 2006 "I had a good off season, three or four weeks, and I'm excited about 2006. I'm glad 2005 is over with. We're going to start over and have a ...
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
TALK ABOUT YOUR FRAME OF MIND GOING INTO 2006 "I had a good off season, three or four weeks, and I'm excited about 2006. I'm glad 2005 is over with. We're going to start over and have a new team, a bunch of new guys to work with. I'm looking forward to it. It's going to be a great year. I'm excited about the new things that Ray is bringing into the program. The Charger, we're working on it. Dodge has been trying to help us some. Everybody at Evernham Motorsports has done the most work so far for us to try to help us, and I think with a little help from NASCAR we should be able to make it what the Chevy and Ford is."
DO YOU EXPECT TO GET ANY HELP FROM NASCAR? "I really don't know. I think we need it. If it doesn't we'll have to work with what we've got and wait until '07 and wait for the new car. Hopefully we'll get something. By the performance of the Dodge last year compared to the other manufacturers.... We have a lot of great teams. Evernham Motorsports is as good as any team out there I feel. The people working on the cars are definitely as good. We just need to keep on working hard, and that's what we're doing."
COMMENT ON GAINING SPEED BETWEEN FIRST AND SECOND SESSIONS MONDAY "It was mainly aerodynamic stuff. We're doing some engine stuff with the other car, but it's a little bit slower car. With the aerodynamics we gained three or four tenths. Hopefully we can do something like that again tomorrow (Tuesday) and get closer to the top 10."
IS THERE ONE THING YOU COULD CHANGE TO MAKE THE TEAM BETTER OR WAS IT JUST THE LEARNING CURVE? "I think the learning curve is one thing, but I think changing the team... Ray has done a lot of things during the off season to kind of mix things up, and I think that's what we needed. Our team was a great team last year, but there were a lot of little things we were missing once in awhile, and then I'd make some mistakes also. We never got on a roll. We had one or two good races and then two or three bad races. We never got consistently three, four, five good races in a row where we ran good. With what Ray's done, I think it's definitely going to help. So far, I'm excited with the guys I have. We get along good and working with Kenny Francis (team director) has been good."
YOU SAID YOU WERE HAPPY WHEN 2005 SEASON WAS OVER "Yeah, I was happy when it was over. I'm usually not like that. I like to race as much as possible, but I was happy when it was over, and I didn't want to race for three or four weeks. I remember the year before when the season was over I still wanted to be racing and after a week I wanted to also. I'm ready to go again now, and I'm looking forward to it. I took my midget out yesterday (Sunday) and practiced a little bit for the Chili Bowl this weekend. I'm looking forward to that."
TALK ABOUT THE CHANGES AT EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS "It's a little confusing and it keeps changing with the roles. Some people have left, and we've got some new people, too. Ray keeps looking for people who want to make a commitment, and that's what they want to focus on. We've got a great team. The 19's got a great team and the 10 is building a good team. It should be fun to work with both of those guys all year, Scott and Jeremy. I look forward to working with them. Our team is great. It's pretty much Jeremy's team from last year with a couple more people add in. They've made The Chase the past two years. I feel like we can do a lot with that."
COMMENT ON BEING SELECTED TO PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON SERVICE AND CIVIC PARTICIPATION "That's a pretty neat opportunity for me. Seventeen of us are going to sit down and talk about different stuff and hopefully get to hang out with the President for five seconds or something. That would be pretty nice. We'll meet two or three times throughout the year. There's supposed to be a deal to meet everybody in the next couple of weeks. I'm waiting to hear more about that. I really don't know enough about it yet."
WAS LAST YEAR A FAIR REPRESENTATION OF YOUR DRIVING SKILLS? "I showed my skill at Richmond and that was it. It was really a pathetic year. Some of the things I did, some of the crashes I was in I didn't need to be in. I forced the issue. I knew my car was on the edge of crashing and I went past that edge and crashed. That was pretty bad driving really. I felt like I made a lot of mistakes with bad racecars. I could have just handled those cars and drove to the finish. If I had finished 16th, 17th, 18th somewhere in there instead of crashing and finishing 40th or 42nd, that's where we lost a lot of points. If we had just finished races we probably would have finished five or six or seven spots better in the standings. I feel like I grew up a lot during the year and will calm down a little bit. You really can't make up for one of these cars like you can in sprint cars where you can get more aggressive and maybe make up for it. You just can't do that in a stock car."
DO YOU FEEL THERE WILL BE DIFFERENT EXPECTATIONS FOR YOU THIS SEASON? "It depends on how you look at it. Myself, I feel like there's a lot of pressure this year to make The Chase. I can't miss the Chase three years in a row when Ray's got a car in it each year. That's just not what we need to do. Ray is changing teams. He's doing everything he can to make the 9 car better, to make the 19 car better, to make everybody better. It's time to get in there (The Chase). It's time to perform and finish races. There's pressure to do that this year, but there's no expectations in '04. There was more last year that I didn't live up to, so maybe this year we'll do better."
WHAT ARE THINGS A DRIVER CAN DO WHEN A CAR IS NOT RUNNING WELL? "Things you can do is search around the racetrack and find a line your car will work different. You can look for that. If you can't find another spot on the track, you can't drive it into the corner hard. Those are the kind of things I learned throughout the year. You just kind of have to live with what you have and work on making a pit stop and fixing it on the next pit stop or try to. You've got six or seven stops to work on it. Just don't get frustrated."
COMMENT ON TOMMY BALDWIN LAST YEAR "I think there were some different things. One thing we lost some things we had the year before with the balance of the racecar. When you run better, everything is better and all the people are happier. There were some things that Tommy wasn't getting to do that he was the year before. There were some things with the team structure, the way Ray wanted to structure the team. Tommy didn't really like it as much, but that's the way it was going to be, so he needed to either like it or figure out a different position. It kind of got on Tommy and it kind of got on Ray and our engineers. We went through a couple of different engineers because people just weren't happy. The first year everybody was happy. That was the biggest thing. People weren't happy at different races, and when that starts happening your performance goes down. All the people on the team aren't as happy. When you go to the shop everybody is moping around. It just wasn't a very good situation."
HOW MUCH HELP WILL A THIRD TEAM BE TO THE ORGANIZATION? "I think it will be a benefit in testing and development. We'll have more opportunity to make our cars better and have more money coming in. We'll have more information coming in. It's really benefited us so far. That's been good. It's something me and Jeremy have been trying to do for awhile. Scott is a great driver and we'll make use of his knowledge as well."
IS RAY STILL TOO MUCH OF A CREW CHIEF? "Part of it is Ray's structure and that might have been what Tommy wasn't happy about and some of the other guys were. It just caused them hard feelings there. That was some of the minor stuff that went on, but that's the way Ray wanted it. He's pretty good about not acting like a crew chief. He ran that Busch car a couple of times with me last year at Phoenix and Nashville. He was kind of a crew chief on the car. He learned and enjoyed it. He has a lot of good people there he talks to and tells them ideas sometimes. He works on other things. He does a good job of not being a crew chief."
COMMENT ON RUNNING THE CHILI BOWL. WHAT'S SO NEAT ABOUT IT? "It's the first race of the year. There's 200 midgets there. Tony Stewart will be there and it's always fun to try to beat him in a midget. It's indoors and a ton of people are jammed into the Tulsa Expo Center. It's fun. A midget is so fun to drive on dirt, and that little racetrack is wide and there's a lot you can do there. It's a tough race to make, and that makes it fun, too. Each time you're on the racetrack you have to make points. That's how you qualify for the final night. If you have a good car, it's a blast. Two years ago we ran really good. Last year we didn't run as good."