Dodge Motorsports Teleconference June 29. 2004 KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) WHAT'S BEEN GREAT AND NOT SO GREAT ABOUT BEING IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS SEASON? "So far I'd say what's great is knowing we can run up front and we can...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
June 29. 2004
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
WHAT'S BEEN GREAT AND NOT SO GREAT ABOUT BEING IN THE SPOTLIGHT THIS SEASON?
"So far I'd say what's great is knowing we can run up front and we can compete for wins. Every week it seems like we have a shot at running in the top 10, and that's what's been great so far this season driving for Ray Evernham and Dodge. The other stuff, there really hasn't been too much stuff that hasn't been good. Just having more things to do, getting pulled in more directions, really at times it's like I wish I didn't have to do all this stuff, but other than that it's all be pretty good."
YOU'RE ON THE BUBBLE FOR THE 400-POINT CUTOFF. DOES THAT GIVE YOU A DIFFERENT ATTITUDE GOING INTO THE RACE? DO YOU FEEL A SENSE OF URGENCY GOING INTO THE NEXT 10 RACES?
"I think we've got 10 races until the cutoff. Daytona, you just have to take that race and do all you can during the race and stay out of the wrecks or whatever happens and get points out of it. The next week at Chicago, we have to really get after it. We had a good first half of the season for a rookie team, but the second half of the season we've got to really get after it to get in the top 10."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO GET IN THE TOP 10?
"It's something I think about all the time. We had a goal to finish in the top 15 in the points and get the Raybestos Rookie of the Year. We started running so well, we know we can get in the top 15 if we do things right every week. Yeah, it's something I think about. It's something the team thinks about. We just need to do things right and we'll get in the top 10."
WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU SPUN OUT AT SONOMA?
"I was frustrated with myself. We had a pretty good racecar. At that point we were loose, and we were working on that, but I just got into the corner and got loose. I had to save it, and when I saved it I was up in the marbles and I couldn't turn it in the next corner. I got off into the dirt or sliding through the infield or whatever happened there, but it was disappointing. I screwed up. I was having some problems inside the car and that just led to making some mistakes."
ARE THE FANS YOU ENCOUNTER DIFFERENT ACROSS THE COUNTRY?
"I'd say it's a little different. In Enumclaw (Washington), a lot of people I know are turning more and more into race fans and enjoy watching it it sounds like. Out here, it's more just fans I meet as I go along. In Enumclaw it's more people I know, and it's fun to come home and see how excited people are and how many people are interested in NASCAR now. If you can race good and excite people and entertain people, I think that's pretty cool."
WHERE WILL YOU FOCUS ON TESTING IN THE SECOND HALF?
"We've already started testing more on short tracks to be better at those tracks. We need to get through Daytona and Talladega in one piece and get some really good points out of there. Other than that, I think we can run good everywhere we go. We just have to make sure we're ready for it and I'm ready for it because I'm always struggling somewhat on short tracks, and that's what we've been working on."
COMMENT ON CHANGING OVER TO STOCK CARS
"I was never set on going in any direction. I was set on doing sprint cars and midgets and doing all I could in those cars. If I had other opportunities I'd pursue them and see what happened. My opportunity came in NASCAR, and I'm real happy it did. I'd rather be in NASCAR than anywhere else. I was obviously concerned some to go out and race Tony Stewart and Rusty Wallace and Dale Jr. and all those guys. Once you get in the car you're racing just like you would any other guys. It was a big deal thinking about it, but once you do it it's just part of it."
IS IT UNCOMFORTABLE FOR YOU AND JEREMY TO BE ON THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN AT THE TOP 10?
"I don't know about Jeremy, but for us it's not really that uncomfortable. We'd like to be in the top 10, but we're not. We don't deserve to be in the top 10 right now. If we race better, if we do the right things, we will be in the top 10. Right now, we're trying hard and we're working hard, but we don't deserve to be in the top 10 in the points. I think even if you are in the top 10 you're feeling the pressure because of how close you are to the 400 points or 10th in the points. There's definitely going to be more and more pressure. It's going to create some pretty wild, crazy racing. I imagine some stuff is going to be going on in the next 10 races you wouldn't normally see this early in the season. I'd say there might be some of that (desperate moves) going on."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE WHEN YOU DO WELL THAT COMPETITORS TALK TO SEE HOW YOU WEATHER THAT?
"That's part of racing. That's part of the competitiveness of racing. At the start of the year there nobody was saying Ray Evernham's teams were going to be great or going to be this or that. We ran real strong and then everybody starts looking at our cars and thinks we're doing something crazy. Then somebody else, say Jimmie Johnson, will start running good and everybody will think they're doing something. That's just kind of the circle, the way racing goes. Everybody wants to know what makes them so fast."
DO YOU LIKE THE NEW SHOCK RULE?
"I don't really mind it. Whatever rules NASCAR makes we'll go with them and go fast in other ways. If it benefits us or if it doesn't, we'll find ways to go fast."
COMMENT ON BILL ELLIOTT'S INFLUENCE
"His influence has been great, especially at short tracks and road courses. Sears Point was... we didn't really show what we were. We had a really good racecar. I made some mistakes and had some issues with the seat and things during the race and that didn't help us at all. I learned a ton of things from Bill at Sears Point. I learned a lot from him at short tracks and some at two-mile tracks and mile and a half stuff. He's been a huge help this year. Bill and I were talking last year the same time Ray and I were. I asked him if I was ready for it and what he thought. Bill is a big supporter of me being ready for Nextel Cup and getting in the 9 car."
COMMENT ON QUALIFYING AT DAYTONA
"There's a lot of pressure and a lot of fun qualifying at certain tracks, but at Daytona you've got what you've got and you try to make it go faster around the track. I think the way the Busch Series is doing it this weekend (practice, Happy Hour and then qualifying on the same day) is a pretty cool way to do it at a superspeedway."
DO YOU THINK THERE SHOULD BE A REWARD FOR WINNING THE POLE?
"As much effort as some teams put into qualifying -- the driver and crew chief and engine and everything about a team that goes into qualifying -- if they gave five points to the fastest guy or something like that or just did something different to make it better, I don't know. I think that might be pretty neat."
TALK ABOUT THE RAYBESTOS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR COMPETITION
"I think so far we've done a really good job. I think the other rookies have done a good job, too, and they're going to be better the second half of the season. We're going to need to step it up if we want to get that Raybestos Rookie of the Year title. Obviously Brian Vickers has been really fast the last month or month and a half. We've got to get better."
COMMENT ON GOING BACK TO DAYTONA
"It should be fun. It's always been an exciting race to watch and to be a part of the Pepsi 400 will be really neat. Our engines are awesome and it seems like they get better every week. We had a problem in that first race with an engine part, but other than that we should have a good race this weekend. I like night racing. It's fun at Daytona because of the lights and people. It's always been fun to watch, and it'll be fun to be in, too. Racing the Busch car this weekend will be good to be back in it at the same track."
COMMENT ON SAFER WALLS
"As a driver I don't think it changes anything you do. I think you're driving just as hard with a soft wall as you are without a soft wall. The benefit is it helps out a lot in accidents. It's going to save a lot of lives and do a lot of things in crashes. It's so big to this sport. As a driver you can't slow down because you think you're going to hit a wall. You've got to be all out and that's just the way it is, but with the safe wall is something all tracks need. I love it as a driver. I think it's one of the best things they've come up with. I've hit hard walls. I don't think I've ever hit a soft wall, but just talking to people and hearing about it, it's definitely a good thing."
COMMENT ON COMPETING IN BOTH SERIES
"It's been good. I enjoy racing as much as I can. I enjoy racing Saturday and Sunday, but when we're racing at the same racetrack I think they help each other. I think Cup practice on Saturday morning helps me in the Busch race, and I think the Busch race helps the Cup race on Sunday for sure. When the tracks aren't together I don't think it helps either one other than you're just racing cars that week. That's why we decided not to go to Milwaukee and just focus on Sears Point. You learn a lot of little things driving each car that help you with the racetrack. Being ready Sunday morning when the race goes green, knowing what the track is going to be like because you were on it the last lap the day before is probably the biggest thing."
COMMENT ON SHANE HMIEL DRIVING YOUR BUCSH CAR AT MILWAUKEE
"Our team manager was thinking about putting someone else in the car, and I knew they wanted to win a race there. I told them that if they wanted to win they needed to put Shane Hmiel in because he was a guy who could win the race there. He darn near won it. I actually called Shane and got the whole ball rolling on that. It worked out really well for the Great Clips team. The team stepped up and did an awesome job for him, and he did an awesome job driving the car. I just looked at the drivers that are out there that don't have a Busch ride, and then you look at drivers that do have a Busch ride and Cup rides, and Shane could handle any one of them. He didn't have a Busch ride, so he might as well be in our Busch car. I think it's helping him a lot. He's really stepped up and working hard to get back in a truck or a car. I guess he made a mistake and he's working hard to get over that. I think a lot of people see he's working hard to get over that, and it's great he's running good."
WERE YOU MORE EXCITED WATCHING HMIEL DRIVE YOUR CAR SATURDAY NIGHT?
"If I was running as good as Shane was on Saturday I would have been a lot more excited in the car. I was sitting at Applebee's out in California. It was me, my brother and my cousin for awhile. That was at the start of the race and by the end of the race we were still sitting there and there was about 10 or 15 of us cheering him on. We were pretty excited. It was a fun race to watch and I wish that Great Clips car could have won the race. He finished fourth and it was their first time working together. He even got spun out at the end and still ran fourth. That was a pretty good run. It was kind of a cheap shot at the end by the 22 car (Jason Keller) on him."