NASCAR NEXTEL CUP Teleconference Tuesday, March 23,2004. Kasey Kahne and Casey Mears Teleconferences KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) "I don't think it (success) hurts my learning curve. I'm learning a lot every weekend. I learned...
NASCAR NEXTEL CUP Teleconference
Tuesday, March 23,2004.
Kasey Kahne and Casey Mears Teleconferences
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
"I don't think it (success) hurts my learning curve. I'm learning a lot every weekend. I learned a lot last week at Darlington, so hopefully that carries over to Bristol this weekend. It's another tough racetrack where you can get in trouble. I don't think it's hurt. I think it has put a little more pressure on us because we have run so good early in the season and maybe we need to have a little higher expectations from the outside. I think we still have our same goals -- the Raybestos Rookie of the Year and top 15s every weekend and finishing the races and not get in any wrecks."
DO YOU LIKE BEING IN THE SPOTLIGHT?
"So far we've been in the spotlight pretty often at the start of the season. It's been good for our whole race team. It's a good race team. They showed that at the end of last year and taking on a rookie driver and new crew chief. Tommy Baldwin and myself have a good thing going so far. I think everything is going pretty good."
HOW MUCH CAN YOU TRANSFER FROM BUSCH TO CUP AT BRISTOL?
"I can transfer a lot. I learned a lot of things in the Busch Series, a lot of good things and bad things, things to do and things not to do. I bring a lot of that with me this year. The biggest thing I know how easy it is to get in trouble and not finish the race or hurt your fenders and slow down at the end of the race. With that experience and now working with the great raceteam I'm working with, that helps."
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE BRISTOL TO SOMEONE WHO'S NEVER SEEN IT?
"A small racetrack with a ton of great race fans around it. It's a real tough track to race. If you move out of the lane a little bit you get passed by eight or 10 cars. You can move cars and a wreck can happen quick there and if there is a wreck there's usually three or four cars in it."
DID THINGS GET RACIER AT DARLINGTON?
"I think it's going to keep getting tougher as the year goes on. At certain times when it's good racing some of those guys and other times it's more difficult. They make it harder on you than I think they need to, but it's just part of coming in as a rookie and being fast. It's a good thing. For that to happen at Bristol, if somebody spins you out there you're going to get hit by another car and you're going to get into the wall. We were lucky enough at Darlington to stay out of the wall on two different spins and Bristol won't be like that. There will be more tempers going at Bristol if that goes on."
WILL BRISTOL BE A MORE PHYSICAL WEEKEND FOR YOU WITH TWO RACES?
"It's going to be the most physical weekend of the year so far for sure. I still think Saturday will help with Sunday. Bristol is a tough track to get around. You can slow your lap down a whole lot by what you're doing with the throttle. I think the Busch race will help. Just because I race the Busch race won't mean I'll do better in the Cup race."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO TONY STEWART YET?
"No, I haven't talked to Tony. We'll probably talk this weekend. I kinda pinched him up to the wall and he didn't like it and spun me when we got to the corner. That's racing with Tony Stewart I guess. I wasn't surprised at all really. It's different now. Tony has helped me a lot and done a lot of things for me. When I was racing in Busch he would help me a lot. Now that we're racing against each other, he needs to race good. I need to race good, and you don't get quite as much help as you used to when you don't race in the same division."
WHAT MAKES STEWART SO GOOD?
"Just how bad he wants it, how bad he wants to pass the car in front of him, how bad he wants to win the race. He's aggressive. He's always on top of the wheel. He's as hard of a racecar driver you'll find. That's what makes him so good, how bad he wants to win races."
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE IN MIDGETS AND STOCK CARS?
"I think the midgets move around a lot and they're real quick. You have to feel what the tires are doing and what the car is doing so you don't spin out. I think a stock car is close to the same. I'd say if you were to compare them, a Cup car is closer to it just because of the horsepower. You can drive a little more with the throttle and engine than not having the motor to pull you out of certain situations. I don't know if they (midgets) are quicker, but it's a shorter wheelbase and a lighter racecar. They're a lot quicker. When a stock car gets up to 180 or 190 mph it's pretty quick, too, in the direction it can change."
HOW ARE YOU HANDLING ALL THE SUCCESS?
"Dale Jr. has given me some advice. Dale Jr. Bill Elliott and Jeremy Mayfield have given me some advice on all of this. I went from not having too many interviews and too many different type media things to a bunch every week. It's changed a lot, but it's changed for a good reason. I'm just trying not to lose focus on what we're doing and keep racing good. We want to be able to do that for the UAW and Dodge Dealers and keep our sponsors happy."
YOU ALMOST WON BOTH POLES AT DARLINGTON. HOW HAS RUNNING BUSCH FULL TIME HELPED YOU?
"It's giving me more time on the track before I get in the Cup car. I think it helped me in Cup practice last week. I made six or seven runs before I got back in the Busch car. I knew where I needed to be on the track and where I needed to pick up the throttle. We had two great racecars. It would have been neat to get both poles, but second and first was still pretty cool."
WHAT'S IT LIKE TAKING OVER FOR BILL ELLIOTT?
"That's been a dream to get the support and help from Bill Elliott. That's something not too many rookies get. You can get into somebody else's racecar and get help from a crew chief, but you never get the support Bill Elliott has given me. That helps me build confidence and race situations. It's really cool to have Bill on my side. He keeps me aware of things that are going to happen on track, things to look out for and to look for. He helps me out in certain situations on the racetrack. If we go back to Atlanta it'll help me on Saturday. When I was actually in the race on Sunday, I thought about things that Bill had told me probably 10 times in the race. It's just little things, but some of the little things are the biggest things that can help you."
TALK ABOUT IMPROVEMENT AT EVERNHAM MOTORSPORTS
"Jeremy is having a great season, a great start to the season. He's got two or three top 10s. He's seventh in points. They're doing a great job. Our team is doing a great job, and I think Ray Evernham has got his program where he wants it right now. He's still working hard to make it better. He's worked real hard to get it where it's at. Now he's got a lot of good people in position with Kenny Francis, Tommy Baldwin, different engineers and crew members and pit crew guys. The engine shop is better. Everything at Evernham Motorsports is better than it was last year. Ray has just got everything going in the right direction."
WHAT DO YOU HEAR FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS ABOUT YOUR SUCCESS?
"It's really cool what's been going on. My mom started my fan club and she's running my website and my apparel store. People call her and Dodge dealerships, a lot of people, fans are talking about what we're doing. We just need to keep it up. It just makes more fans in the Pacific Northwest watching NASCAR."
CAN YOU COMPARE BRISTOL TO RACING ANYWHERE ELSE?
"Everybody says sprint car drivers run good on short tracks. Ever since I've got to 'em, I've actually struggled more on short tracks than any other tracks. It's a completely different deal to me the way the cars handle when you get side by side and just what goes on through the race. It's a pretty big surprise to me on what it is. That's probably the biggest thing I need to work on this year -- short tracks. It's going to be a long race. That's why I try to stay in as good of shape as possible and be ready for these types of races. It'll be the longest, probably the hardest race I've ever had in a racecar. I look forward to being in good enough shape to where I'll feel good when the race is over. I've never run 500 miles there, so I don't know where I might get tired or what I might need to do from the next 500-mile race at Bristol. We ran 300 miles there last week when we tested, and I felt really good. I'm looking forward to running 500."