KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) NOTE: Kahne, a 24-year-old driver from Enumclaw, Wash., leads the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings by 38 points (166-128) over Scott Wimmer after 13 of 36 races in 2004. Kahne has been the top ...
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
NOTE: Kahne, a 24-year-old driver from Enumclaw, Wash., leads the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings by 38 points (166-128) over Scott Wimmer after 13 of 36 races in 2004. Kahne has been the top rookie finisher six times this season and no other rookie has done it no more than twice. Kahne ranks 12th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings. He's 438 points out of first and 71 points out of the coveted No. 10 position. Kahne led with 19 laps left last week at Dover before slipping in oil and ending up 21st. He led 36 laps and appeared headed for his first career victory in Cup competition.
"I've been over it (Dover disappointment) all week. I've had some tough nights sleeping, but I've been over it all week. It was disappointing, but it's over with and it's just part of racing. We'll just go on with it.
"I don't think it'll affect it (points race) at all. If we would have finished where we were we would have been 20 or 30 points out of sixth place. We didn't and now we're (438) points behind. I think we have a good enough team and good enough people. If we deserve to be in that top 10 we'll be in there at the end of the deal. I've known that (it'll take a top 10 ranking to race for the championship in final 10 races) all along. You look at the points and usually the guys up front have such good years that it's tough to be within 400 points. You're going to need to be in the top 10.
"Tommy Baldwin has been real good this week. He's been mad at times, but he's been awesome. He's always a good guy to work with, and I think that's why we've been so good this year. Tommy and our whole crew have been great this week. I know they were upset that we didn't win the race, but nobody was down. We went to Kershaw (S.C.) on Tuesday and did some different things. We went down there (road course) to try to get ready for Sears Point. It rained all day, so we didn't get on the track.
"We came here and tested a week ago for a day and Bill (Elliott) was here the whole day. He helped us here in a lot of different ways. Bill goes to most of the tracks I haven't been to and tries to help me at them. When he can come around for qualifying he helps me with different things. If I have questions I call him on the phone. He helps me get through some of the things you have to learn at new racetracks -- the characteristics of each corner or what you need to do shifting. He went to Sears Point with us. He's been to a lot of different tracks with us just trying to teach me quicker so I don't have to go through such a long learning curve. I still have to go through the learning curve, but if he helps with some little things, then I don't have to learn them.
"I think they should be able to figure it out quick enough that you shouldn't have to run that many (caution) laps. In racing there's always the crew chiefs, the teams and the owners and everybody finds different ways around every rule. NASCAR has to look at that, and it's tough. There are always different ways to look at things, especially in racing. There were just too many yellow laps (at Dover). That's for sure, but how to fix it, I think maybe.... They have the last decision. They could say this is how it is and that's the way it is and we'll talk about it next week. That's bad if you're in that position, or just throw a red, but 24 laps under caution gets old."
BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak/Jasper Dodge)
NOTE: Gaughan, a 28-year-old Las Vegas native, ranks fourth in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings and has been the top finishing rookie driver twice this season -- Talladega and California. He finished a career-best sixth at California. He's 29th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings, 394 points out of 10th.
DO YOU THINK RACING AT POCONO WILL HELP YOU GET READY FOR THE ROAD RACES? "The only thing that helps you get ready for road courses is to go road racing. Fortunately for me I have a lot of road racing experience and really enjoy road racing. I don't know and really don't care if anyone knows about my road racing. I really hope the drivers don't know because then they won't expect it. Robby Gordon knows. Jimmie Johnson knows. Guys I've been around all my life know I have some road racing experience, but the rest of the garage probably doesn't. I'm a rookie. They don't know what I can and can't do. They don't know where I came from, so being an enigma is kinda nice.
"OK, you have to shift at Pocono. I guess it's tough for drivers to shift. This is a fun, fast place. It's the only track I've seen in NASCAR that has a 60 mph split in a corner from top speed to bottom speed. That's amazing. That's huge. That really differentiates this place. Turn 3 is kinda like Milwaukee. It's flat and you dance around. I kinda like that. I won Milwaukee last year in the truck. The tunnel turn you just hold on for the ride. It's exciting and I don't know what to expect with traffic back there. We tested here a couple weeks ago and had a decent test. We've got the Kodak colors back this weekend, and hopefully we'll have a decent race. We'd like to keep the primary car and make it all the way to the end of the race and try to miss the wreck this time. We feel pretty good about it.
"We had two races where we weren't that good, and we're still trying to figure out why. We had a good car at Dover. We were running 11th when the wreck happened. We were up front to start the race. It was just one of those racing accidents that I couldn't miss. Blaney made it through the hole and it closed up right behind him. We missed the other two big ones and finished the day."
COMMENT ON THE RAYBESTOS ROOKIE RACE "I don't really understand how the rookie points work completely. I know after the 16th race you see the points go up and down because they just count your 16 best finishes. It's going to be tough now to make the top 10. If you can rip off a Ryan Newman-finish to the season you might can get within 400 points. It's getting further and further away. Right now, we're just trying to work on that Raybestos Rookie championship, get some good runs for Kodak and Dodge. We need to get back up front and get in the top 20. If we've still got a shot for the chase we'll go for it, but right now we're battling for top 10 finishes."