NASCAR NEXTEL Teleconference Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004 KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) NOTE: After finishing second at California, Kahne has moved up two spots from 11th to ninth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings. He is 11...
NASCAR NEXTEL Teleconference
Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2004
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
NOTE: After finishing second at California, Kahne has moved up two spots from 11th to ninth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings. He is 11 points out of the eighth-place spot, and is just 15 points out of a 400-point automatic berth in NASCAR's Chase for the NEXTEL Cup.
Kasey Kahne: "It was a good finish out in California. It got us back in the points, and we're looking forward to Richmond this weekend.
Q: Is there still pressure on you guys (considering the 400 point cutoff)?
KK: "Yeah, there really is. Anything can happen at Richmond. It's going to be an exciting race. At the same point there could be a lot of guys to get in if, say, a problem was to happen with the No. 48. I think it's going to be an exciting race for sure. It's really hard to say what all is going to happen there, but it should be exciting.
Q: Jimmie Johnson said the one guy he has his eye on if he makes the top 10 is Kasey Kahne because he's running good, and the tracks in the top 10 really work in EMS' favor.
KK: "I'm definitely looking forward to the final 10 races whether we're in the top 10 or not. I think, obviously, we're going to do everything we can to be in the top 10. When it comes down to it, I think there are six or seven races that we have a great shot at running up front at and a great shot at qualifying well for and racing well at. Hopefully, we can run better than we did the first time I went to those tracks. I think Evernham Motorsports should be really strong at those races."
Q: You're the only rookie in the top 10 right now, is that a special honor for you?
KK: "Yeah, that's a really special honor. I wish Richmond was over and we could know that we were going to finish in the top 10 in points this year. That's a great accomplishment for our team, and that's a great accomplishment for me. One of our main goals this season was to get the Raybestos Rookie of the Year, and we're working really hard to get that. We're looking good on that, but we've got to keep working harder to do it. If we get a top 10, that would be great."
Q: Is this a nervous time for you?
KK: "The last month and a half has been, really. Ever since Chicago, ever since we lost a bunch of points at Chicago I've really tried to figure out how to finish these races and how to finish them up front and do whatever it takes to have good races and not crash a car and not lose points because we fell out towards the end of the race. We've been able to do that, and we have one more race to do it and we'll get in that top 10."
Q: Do you think 10 is the right number for the Chase? Would 15 be better?
KK: "Yeah. It could end up being 15 (drivers) with the 400 point deal. It's been really kind of nerve-wracking and different things lately. You've got Jamie McMurray who has been really fast. Mark Martin. Dale Jarrett. Ryan Newman. Jeremy Mayfield. All of these guys have been really good for the last seven or eight races. It's coming down to the final races, which we knew it was going to. If it was 15 I think that would be a little bit better at this point in time, but at the same time 10 is what they did for this year. The whole deal is structured so much differently this year than it was in the past. It's going to be interesting to see how this whole deal works out and see if they want to change something for next year.
Q: Have your recent starts/finishes helped your confidence heading into Richmond? How's your mindset?
KK: "It's pretty good. We've been qualifying good. We've been racing good. We did some testing before Loudon and then learned a lot at Loudon with our short-track program. That's what our weakest program was throughout this year -- the short tracks. Going back to Richmond, the first time we were there we didn't race well at all. I crashed in qualifying, and we had to pull a backup out and just never got it right. I learned a lot about the brakes and about these cars on the short tracks. I've definitely got some momentum going into Richmond, and I look forward to being at that racetrack."
Q: Have you used up a lot of your test dates prior to Richmond? Do you have any left if you qualify for the "Chase?"
KK: "We've used up a lot of them. We started out the season doing a lot of testing so we could run well early in the year and kind of get everybody excited and try to build some momentum for this season with having a rookie driver. We used up all of them except for one. We have one two-day test left. We're not sure where we're going to choose to use that yet. We're still looking at the tracks we're going to, and we're going to decide down the road."
Q: Is this the most nerve-wracking race of your Cup career?
KK: "I think the first one I was pretty nervous getting ready to start on the pole in my first race. I was pretty nervous. Going into it a week ahead of time, thinking of the race and what needs to be done this weekend, I think this was probably one of the races that I'm definitely thinking about a lot and the team is thinking about a lot. We just need to keep doing what we've been doing and have a flawless weekend."
Q: Does having a shot at the "Chase" energize your team?
KK: "Yeah, I think it energizes them. I've been at the shop all day. Everybody here -- the guys building the bodies, painting the cars to the guys building the cars -- there's so many people that work here, everyone of them has been excited that I've seen. I think everybody is excited. We're looking forward to going into it this weekend and hopefully having a good run and getting it over with and going on to the next 10."
Q: Is it frustrating to be that close to winning so many times?
KK: "Yeah. It definitely is at times. It was somewhat frustrating at the end because I thought we were better than the No. 38, and if we would have lost to the No. 6 then I could have understood it because he was really good at the end of the day. But the No. 38 made the right adjustments at the end of the race, and they were the car to beat. Going into that I thought we could pass him and would have to battle the No. 6, and it ended up not like that. So, that was a little frustrating. Texas was the most frustrating of all -- finishing second there after dominating the whole race."
Q: Has your success surprised you at all?
KK: "It has definitely surprised me at times, but at the same time now, at this time in the season we've basically been together for ¾ of a year and we're kind of out of that rookie stage. We're more of a team that has been together for a while. All the guys are getting along. I think it's time that we run good every weekend, and we can, and it's not as much of a surprise when we do run good."
Q: Thoughts on Tyler Walker in the No. 38 next year...
KK: "I think he's going to be really good. I've worked with him some already. We've been friends for a long time. He's driven my Silver Crown cars, and he's won the last two weekends in those cars. We're going to test Kansas next week together, and we're going to go back and forth in the cars and try to figure things out together. I think he'll be really good for that whole Great Clips team, and I'll be able to join him at times too."
Q: On racing with teammate Jeremy Mayfield for one of the final spots in the top 10?
KK: "I don't think it'll change. We've been good teammates all year. I really like Jeremy and his whole team. We've all gotten along. I hang out with his team too. Hopefully, both teams get in and we're able to run up front on Saturday night and get both cars into the chase. But, definitely, it's been fun with Jeremy and learning some things with him and working well between the No. 9 and No. 19 both teams together."