Phoenix II: Dodge Motorsport, Kahne Friday interview

DODGE PRESENTS VIPER SRT10 TO KAHNE -- Dodge Motorsports presented Kasey Kahne with a new Dodge Viper SRT10 sports car at Phoenix International Raceway Friday morning to mark his circuit-leading six victories and spot in the NASCAR Nextel Chase...

DODGE PRESENTS VIPER SRT10 TO KAHNE -- Dodge Motorsports presented Kasey Kahne with a new Dodge Viper SRT10 sports car at Phoenix International Raceway Friday morning to mark his circuit-leading six victories and spot in the NASCAR Nextel Chase for the Championship. The Dodge Viper SRT10 Roadster and Coupe, with "Race Inspired, Street Legal" styling and performance, are the ultimate American sports cars and icons of the Dodge brand. The Dodge Viper SRT10 Roadster and Coupe offer an 8.3-liter 510-horsepower V-10 engine with acceleration of 0-60 mph in less than 4 seconds, 0-100-0 mph in the low 12-second range. The distinctive styling features Dodge's signature crosshair grille design, deep-cut side scallops, swept-back fenders and lowered hood lines.

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

"It's been nice to be in The Chase and nice for Evernham Motorsports to be in it for three straight years. I think until about two weeks ago we still had a shot to win the Nextel Cup. That's pretty exciting. I look forward to finishing off the year strong and do all we can to finish up front and get ready for next year. Next year is going to be pretty exciting. We're going to have the same team. Kenny Francis (Team Director) is a great guy and he's done an awesome job all season long on my racecars. I feel like we'll be right back in The Chase again next year and be just as strong or stronger throughout next season."

ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT NEXT SEASON BEING CHAOTIC? "I'm going to test the car of tomorrow the Tuesday after Homestead. That will be my first time in it, so I'll see what it's like. I've heard all the stories from some of the other drivers and things that don't sound good about it, so I'll find out for myself. As a driver it's going to be easier because we have to get in and out of these cars, test them, drive them, figure them out. That's a lot easier than what these owners are going through for sure with all the changes. It's a lot of changes, and I kind of feel bad for Ray Evernham and some of those guys that have to go through it. That's a lot to do in one year."

YOU'RE EITHER UP OR DOWN AT PIR. ANY REASON? "I'd say I'm up or down at any track. We're fast one week and the next week something happens. That's the way it's been. I feel like we can run good at just about any track we go to. Sears Point is probably the track I haven't had a good finish at, but other than that I think we can run up front at about any track. We'll see what happens this week. We've got a new car. We've been pulling it around all year. It's been a backup car. It'll be fun to drive something different than what I drove here in the spring race. We'll see what happens. It's a fun track. I've always enjoyed racing here with the midgets and sprint cars back three or four years ago. We'll see how it goes this weekend, but I think we can finish off strong. I think we have a great team. They give me cars every single weekend that are top 10 cars. It should be pretty exciting. It should be fun these final two races. We'll try to get another win."

ARE YOU READY FOR THE SEASON TO BE OVER? "I was just talking about this last night to a friend, but I think going into Atlanta, I couldn't wait to get there. I couldn't wait to get on track and qualify. Qualifying got rained out and I was disappointed. That's all I wanted to do. After the last two weeks we lost some points. I feel like after we get out of here and go to Homestead and finish the year it'll be time for it to be over. I feel good about it being over with and getting to sit back and get ready for '07. I've had a great season. It's been a lot of fun. A lot of things have been good. We've had a lot of ups and downs, but I'm excited to finish the year and get it over with for sure."

HOW MANY KIDS DO YOU BRING DOWN FOR THIS RACE? "We bring a couple down. It's a deal, it's Kasey's Juniors. The race track I started racing at is a mini sprint track in Washington. Kids under 16 race there. Last year there was like 20 of them. This year it's 30 something that raced. We do a deal with the sportsmanship award. I pay for a lot of their race weekends to help the families out. The sportsmanship award and the kid that wins the points for the season come down to this race with their families. My dad always sets that up. He goes up to that track a couple times a year and hangs out with them and takes pictures. It's pretty exciting. They do a good job and they're trying to be race car drivers. It's exciting to be part of that."

COMMENT ON WHAT JIMMIE JOHNSON HAS BEEN ABLE TO DO "I think it's a huge accomplishment. You can look at all the guys, from the Tony Stewarts that have been up and down. For his team to be that competitive and that consistent in the top five, that's a huge accomplishment. I feel really good about our season, about what we've done. For them to do that kind of stuff five years in a row is awesome. They're going to be tough to beat for the championship. I think they're the team to beat at this point. They're strong at both of these tracks. I think Kenseth will be, too, but without any bad breaks or anything it's going to be close. I think they're both going to do a good job. It'll definitely probably be a disappointment for Jimmie if he doesn't win it because he's been so close for five years, but at the same time they've had five awesome years."

DO YOU THINK THE RACE ITSELF IS BEING WATCHED AS MUCH AS THE CHASE THIS SEASON? "Thanks to Tony there's someone else other than the top 10 (to watch). Without him, Bobby Labonte has been up there a couple of times and some other guys, but Tony has probably been the most consistent. He's accumulated the most points, and he's done everything right in The Chase. That's pretty cool for his team, but I would say it's been pretty similar. Two races ago the top eight were within 90 points. That's pretty exciting. I think a lot of people are just watching The Chase guys and mentioning Tony here and there. I think The Chase itself is what most people watch."

COMMENT ON YOUR ROLE WITH MOPAR "It's a pretty awesome opportunity for me to work with Mopar and take the deal over. We're getting ready to announce it in a couple of weeks and get it out there, but to be able to go out and put some sprint car teams, midget teams, a World of Outlaw team on the racetrack and hope to get great drivers and look for kids and older people that are trying to make it in racing is awesome for me. I know when I was growing up I was looking for that car owner I could go drive for and think that I had a chance to win races and just focus on driving. That's the kind of opportunity I'm trying to give to some of these other people. It's pretty neat to have Mopar be a part of it."

IS NASCAR WHERE RACERS HAVE TO BE? "You just look at how big NASCAR is and how it's growing, the fans that come to each race and make it possible for us. As a racecar driver if you're in the United States you probably want to be in NASCAR. At least you want to race here and there as much as you can. You're probably going to keep seeing that. I think Hornish is going to do a great job, Almindinger, Juan Montoya has already done an awesome job for jumping in as quickly as he's done, so it's pretty cool. I'm excited to see those guys. I talked to Montoya last week for the first time and he's a guy I've always looked up to as a racecar driver. You always look up to two or three guys in the United States as the best drivers and I always got him and Tony in there. It's always cool to meet somebody like that and see what they've done in racing."

WILL YOU BUMP HIM (MONTOYA) OUT OF THE WAY? "I don't know. I don't usually bump anybody out of the way, but you never know."

ARE YOU EXPERIMENTING WITH THE ENGINES? "That's just engines. It's just things that happen. It's not a part that Evernham's built. It's a part we're having built that's broke all year long. We're trying different things, different parts and we haven't started building those yet. It's disappointing we've had some of those problems, but it's racing and they're figuring it out. Next year we probably will have a lot less of them and it'll be better. Our engine department does a great job. They give us as much power and more than most teams out here. That's something we definitely should be proud of."

***

MIKE ACCAVITTI (Director Dodge Motorsports and SRT Marketing)

"This has been an exciting year for Dodge and Kasey Kahne has been the one that has driven that excitement. It was a very dramatic finish getting into The Chase at Richmond, throughout The Chase it's been exciting. That's why the fans watch the sport, and that's why I watch the sport and that's why my friends love the sport. It's because of the excitement and drama. We've decided at Dodge what better way to share that excitement than to have a contest to give a chance to a fan to be Kasey Kahne's assistant for a week. We're running a contest that we'll launch today at www.KaseyKahnedreamjob.com. One lucky fan will get to be Kasey Kahne's personal assistant for the week of the Darlington race in the spring. The contest will run now until the spring, and we'll have several steps along the way."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT KASEY? "I think that's pretty exciting," Kahne said. "I definitely think the Dodge Charger has been a great car this year. We've had six wins and a lot of good things going on. I need an assistant at times. I don't have one. I think my brother is going to help decide who's going to be the assistant. That'll be good. Hopefully he'll look out for my best interest and we'll figure out the best one."

COMMENT ON DODGE'S OVERALL PROGRAM THIS SEASON "I don't want to sound like the Detroit Lions football coach, but this was a rebuilding year. We really hit bottom last year and our performance was dismal. Certainly we would have loved to have won a championship this year, but realistically that was an unrealistic goal. I think we've made tremendous progress this year, going from three wins last season to seven this year and we've still got two races left. Maybe we'll get one or two more. The poles, we're showing strong performance in our cars. We've dismissed the talk from races earlier this year about the performance of the Dodge Charger. The Dodge Charger has shown it can be a very competitive performer. Overall, we're very satisfied with our performance, but being a competitive individual you're never going to be completely satisfied until you get that championship."

HOW DO YOU COMBAT THE DEPTH OF THE CHEVY TEAMS? "One thing we're working on and we started when the new management took over and this is what we're continuing to do and we'll continue it next year and beyond. We're having the teams work together. Chevy is a formidable competitor. They've been here forever. Keep in mind, Dodge has only been back in it for six years. So, for us to achieve where we're at is very good. I'm not saying it's going to take us 10 years to win the championship, but we're doing all right. By getting the teams to work closer together is where we see the benefit in the future for Dodge. Sharing base information, these teams are competitors and they're going to have the tweaks and things they don't want to share, but the base information that everybody really needs, if we can share that amongst the teams we think we can get a leg up on the competitors. It'll allow the teams to focus on those tweak performance improvements and not spend all their time and effort that's common across all the teams. If we can get 80 percent of the car common and let these guys focus their effort and resources on the other 20 percent, we think it'll better for the teams and overall Dodge performance."

WHAT WILL JUAN PABLO MONTOYA MEAN TO THE DODGE MOTORSPORTS PROGRAM? "That's huge. Every time I think about that, I really applaud Chip and the Ganassi organization for reaching out and bringing him in. It's a tremendous opportunity for us to reach, not only the Hispanic audience out there that's maybe already NASCAR fans and maybe they're not, so there's that whole group we can market to. But the international fan, the guy that really didn't follow NASCAR but he followed F-1 within the United States and outside the United States, is going to be big for Dodge. We're launching the Dodge brand internationally this year. The press we've got already just because of the Montoya transfer over to NASCAR has been phenomenal. We're getting Dodge exposure and NASCAR exposure throughout the world. It's going to be a huge opportunity for us as a brand, not to mention the guy is going to be a great driver and add a lot of excitement to the series. Did you see the Colombia flags in the stands at Talladega? They broadcast that race in Colombia live. That's unheard of. He's brought quite a bit of interest, and I think it's just fantastic for the sport."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kasey Kahne