Michigan: Winning team interview

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) NOTE: Kahne scored his circuit-leading fourth victory of the season and the fifth for Dodge at Michigan International Speedway since Dodge rejoined the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit in 2001. Dodge...

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)

NOTE: Kahne scored his circuit-leading fourth victory of the season and the fifth for Dodge at Michigan International Speedway since Dodge rejoined the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup circuit in 2001. Dodge has won more races at Michigan than any other track and is tied with Ford with five wins each at MIS since 2001.

"I was happy either way, whether they started the race back or not. I thought we had a good shot. The team has done a great job this season and they give me a car capable of winning every week. I made 'em work a little harder this weekend, but everything worked out. They did a great job with the car and that's the fourth time we've won with it this season.

"We had a great car. We had a problem early on with debris. We got some debris on the car and it overheated. We had to pit. I was trying to pass Jeff Gordon, racing with him and then we just had to pit and get it off the nose and go from there. We fell back to 38th and started battling back from there. Kenny (team director Francis) took two tires one time and passed some cars on pit road and the pit crew probably passed 10 cars with pit stops. It was a great car to drive and a great team to work with."

COMMENT ON YOUR NEWFOUND PATIENCE "You do need patience on these type of race tracks. The air is such a big deal and if you put your car in the wrong spot against another car or certain areas in the corner you can spin yourself out in a second. You do need patience, but at the same time you need to charge up there. We knew the rain was coming. I knew it would be here sometime around lap 100. We did all we could to pass cars. I think I was four-wide at one time and three-wide another time. My spotter said that wasn't being patient, but I was like 'well, it was open. I really couldn't tell it was four wide.' It worked out and we're just happy to be in victory lane."

COMMENT ON YOUR BACKUP CAR "It wouldn't have been good if we'd had to get the backup out because we had no time on it. Things change. It's probably a great car. I don't even know which car is back there. Kenny would know. (Told it was the California car). It ran fourth there. It's a good car, but we knew what we had with the car I was driving yesterday and just needed to make the repairs to it. It wasn't too bad. It was bad enough it took a long time to fix, but it wasn't bad enough to pull out there spare. We knew where that car was, and that's the car we wanted to race."

KENNY FRANCIS (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger Team Director)

"That was interesting. It was nerve-racking, that's for sure. I think part of the key to it for sure was being on the pole and having that pit box. The way it's laid out here that's a big advantage under caution. It's a big disadvantage under green, but under caution it's a big advantage and I think it's more important to have good pit stops under caution than green. It was nerve-racking. We knew it was going to rain, and we kept watching the radar in the pit box. When they finally did throw the yellow, I couldn't believe it wasn't raining. It was just surrounding. Kasey did a good job on that two-tire deal just holding 'em off and maintaining where he was at. That was pretty tough. Everybody around him got four and he was just on two. He was trying to pass cars, and this track is so hard to pass on. You really need to run the top. The guy sitting up there running the top, even though you're half a second faster, it's hard to get by him."


COMMENT ON THE WEATHER "In the car I just knew I needed to be there by lap 100 and try to get back to the front. We came pretty close to that, and I was happy with that. As team director, Kenny made the calls that really helped us get up there quickly. He was probably a lot more nervous or something than I was because I was just doing all I could in the car and whatever we got we got."

HOW CONCERNED WERE YOU WITH CARL EDWARDS AT THE END? "I wasn't really concerned at the time. We were pretty good. I was getting lap times and I really didn't know where they were, if they were closing or not, but I know what I was hearing. We were pretty equal. We beat 'em out and got by the 41 pretty quick and opened up a little bit of a lead there and I was doing all I could to stay up there. We probably had a little bit left in our car if we needed to, but there was really no reason to go harder than I was. If we had gone 200 laps, it probably would have been a good show between the 9 and 99 because Carl was really good."

COMMENT ON FOUR WINS IN FIRST 15 RACES "I probably wouldn't believe you (if told that at first of the season). We barely got one last year and couldn't get one in '04. To say we'd have four wins and four poles at Michigan, that would have been a tough thing to think it was for real, but it is. We've been able to do that, and it's pretty awesome. I think Jimmie has three wins now, and it's pretty surprising to have one up on those guys. They've been doing it and are really good. There's a bunch of good teams, Biffle and Edwards and a lot of 'em, and we're leading the pack with victories right now. I'm happy. Keep it up and keep the communication up and we'll be in that Chase. That's the goal to get in The Chase."


COMMENT ON THE WEATHER "It's pretty nerve-racking sitting up there trying to figure out if it's going to rain or not and whether you need to stay out or take two tires or whether you can afford to take four. There's so many smart guys down pit road, and there's so many willing to take a chance. I was afraid someone in the back that didn't have anything to lose was going to take a chance and do something to beat us. That could happen if you made the wrong decision at the wrong time. You sit up there with your heart pounding trying to figure out what to do."

COMMENT ON THE DODGE CHARGER "I feel like we've got a good package. Obviously I haven't run any of these other packages from the other manufacturers. I don't know how theirs really work. I think we've got a good package worked out, but they are super sensitive. It's amazing how easy it is to get one messed up. When we wrecked in practice we made a couple of small adjustments and the car was just terrible. It was probably wasn't his fault. It was our fault for getting the car off, but you make small changes and I think everyone experiences this. Sometimes you make small changes and it reacts real big and sometimes you make big changes and you hardly get any reactions. It's a real struggle in general right now to figure out the setups. I think it still hasn't something to do with the small spoiler. I think it's made everything more sensitive, but our Dodges run real good. We're happy with them. We're real comfortable with them, but that's not to say we couldn't make 'em better."


DO YOU FEEL LIKE LOCKING UP THIS CAR? "We look forward to racing it again. They're also doing a couple of new cars right now that I'm looking forward to driving at Indy testing. They've built very similar to this car. The car we had at the all-star race was built identical to this car and it felt as good or better in the all-star race that night. Too bad I destroyed the thing."

HAVE YOU HAD TO READJUST YOUR GOALS? "At the start of the year I made up my goals for the team and what I was going to do better this year. That was bring cars home in one piece and get in The Chase. Communication was another spot I needed to work on. So far I've stepped up. I've communicated better with Kenny. Whether the car was 21st at Darlington or first at Texas we brought it home in one piece without scratches and that's less work for the guys fixing things I hurt and more time to prepare and make things at Evernham Motorsports better. So far I've been able to do that. I just want to keep it up with my goals."

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A WEEKEND LIKE THIS? "I never have. It's been a great weekend. We've had some ups and downs, but even when we were down I was mad at myself for crashing the car. I knew what it was. It was my third lap and we needed to pull it in and work on it. A small adjustment would make it better. I hit the wall and cost my guys a bunch of extra work and that's what I didn't want to do. As soon as I did it I knew they'd do a good job fixing it up as good as it was."

ARE YOU GOING TO SHARE SOME INFORMATION WITH THE OTHER TEAMS? "The neat thing about Evernham Motorsports is yesterday when my guys were fixing my racecar after practice, myself, Kenny and our engineer were in the 10 hauler with the other team director and other driver and went over every note we had from practice and every setup sheet, everything we had done to make the car better and everything they had done to make theirs better or worse and everything to make ours better or worse, too. We're all working hard to make our car better and better."

RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports)

COMMENT ON THE VICTORY "As far as the 9 team they've been strong all weekend. They've got a good program going. Certainly our other two cars weren't strong, and I've got to find out what happened there. I'm really proud of the 9 guys. They had an incident yesterday afternoon and tore up the body pretty bad. They had to change the front end, rear suspension, didn't really get a lot of practice time and had to guess at a few things. They communicated well. They had a problem today with some debris getting caught on the grille. The car overheated. They made a good choice to pit rather than burn up the motor and came all the way back from that."

COMMENT ON KASEY KAHNE'S MATURITY "He's definitely grown as a racecar driver. He understands what he needs to feel. He understands these races are longer. He lets people go. I've seen him drop back a few positions and runs it as hard as he needs to. He's gotten to understand that the end of the race is what counts and not to abuse the car and all he's got to do is keep it in position. I think he's got confidence in Kenny Francis and in the pit crew that they're going to keep him up front and Kenny is going to make the right decisions. I think he's a much more confident person because he knows he doesn't have to be the fastest car all of the race. He just needs to be the fastest at the end."

HOW MUCH OF THIS TEAM IS THE TEAM THAT WON THE LAST TIME HERE? "There's probably 60 or 70 percent. We mixed and matched a lot of people over the five-week winter off season. Pit crew members moved around, some mechanics and fabricators, but Kenny Francis is one of the keys and we brought a young gentleman up as engineer from our Busch program and he's done a tremendous job, but Kenny Francis and Mike Shiplett have been together for several years on that program."

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE TO PIT EARLY KNOWING YOU'VE GOT A LONG WAY TO GET BACK TO THE FRONT? "You certainly don't want to have a problem, but you want it to happen early at a place like this. Now with the Lucky Dog rule we knew all we needed was a caution. We thought we were fast enough to get the lap back on our own and it looked like we would, but it would have taken a little longer. Now with the Lucky Dog rule being you're the first car a lap down if the caution comes out, you want to make it up early. We were fortunate enough to get out lap back. I think it was around lap 57 and that was plenty of time to get back to the front. I'm not sure what was on the grille. It looked like plastic and hot dog wrappers and stuff like that. I told Kasey if he had wanted a hot dog we would have bought him one. There was a bunch of trash on it. I don't know why. There wasn't a bunch of trash on the track today. They did an excellent job keeping it cleaned up. Sometimes when you're up front you're the first one to hit the stuff. We have helped some of the problem with the Dodge Charger picking up debris, but for some reason today we caught a bunch of it."

-dodge motorsports

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon