KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) "The garage area is pretty cool for the fans, especially with the windows in the garage areas. They can watch what's going on there. I think it's pretty cool how Daytona upgraded and made a ...
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
"The garage area is pretty cool for the fans, especially with the windows in the garage areas. They can watch what's going on there. I think it's pretty cool how Daytona upgraded and made a pretty cool pit area. The track is great, and I think our new Dodge Charger is a lot better than what we had last year. I don't know if it is for everybody, but that was probably our weakest point at Evernham Motorsports. The guys did an awesome job over the winter to really work on that (superspeedway program). Our car isn't the fastest, but it's driving really well and it goes over the bumps really good. It's a lot better than it was last year. I'm really excited about being able to come to Daytona twice and Talladega. It should be much better for us."
ARE YOU MORE POPULAR WITH THE FANS AFTER LAST SEASON?
"We ran up front a lot of the time last year. I had a lot of seconds and top 10s. I think that really helped out. You get more fans as you do that, and the fans that follow NASCAR are just unbelievable in how loyal they are to teams and drivers and sponsors and every part about NASCAR. It's definitely cool to have that many more fans."
DO YOU WORRY ABOUT TEARING UP YOUR CAR IN TESTING AT DIS?
"You think about it a little bit. I thought about it a few times. I watched some of the truck practice and saw four or five trucks got tore up there. It can definitely happen. With this type of racing it can happen any time whether it's the race or practice or final practice before the race. You just have to be smart. Everyone has to realize it's just practice to see how good the cars go and what changes we need to do to make 'em better, not to run into anybody or get them loose or try to really work somebody over to pass 'em."
HOW WILL THE NEW QUALIFYING PROCESS AFFECT YOU AT DAYTONA?
"Last year was my first time in the 125s. We qualified seventh, and I think we finished 13th. We stayed out of trouble, and our car was in good shape after the race and that was good. If you have better racecars you're going to try to win the 150s this year. That's all there is to it. You'll try to finish up front so you can start so you can start further up in the 500. The 500 is a long enough race and enough things go on where you really don't have to start up front, but it'd be much cooler to finish up front in the 150 and start up front in the Daytona 500. That's what we're working for."
DO YOU GO ALL OUT FOR EACH EVENT AT DAYTONA?
"That's the way I'm going to approach it. That's how we approached it last year and everything went fine. We didn't run that great, but it worked out good. We'll do the same thing this year. If something does happen, that's just part of it. Hopefully nothing does and we can finish up toward the front."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR YOUR SOPHOMORE SEASON?
"Last year there were no expectations. Nobody really expected us to run much better than 30th probably at times, so that was pretty easy to run up front because people didn't expect you to run up there. We had a good race team, but this year we need to run up front because there will be more expectations. Our whole team has higher expectations. Last year we wanted to finish in the top 15 and win the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award. We were able to do that. This year we need to run in the top 10 every week and get in that Chase for the Nextel Cup."
HOW HAS THE TRANSITION BEEN FROM YOUR SHORT TRACK EXPERIENCE TO THE SUPERSPEEDWAYS?
"It was a long transition. It took time to figure it out. These cars drive so much different from the sprint cars and midgets. It took time, but I feel like we spent the time on it and learned a lot. I've learned a lot about what I look for in the car each week. You might not throw your arms around as much as you do in sprint cars, but you're definitely driving these cars. With the new spoiler rule you're going to be driving even more. We tested at Atlanta and the car is moving around a lot more than it was, so it'll be a pretty interesting year on what goes on on the track."
IS IT TOUGH TO KEEP YOUR FOCUS?
"No, it's actually pretty easy. All I want to do is run good, run up front. You work on it all day long. If you don't have a good car at the start of the race, you're thinking about what to do to it on the first pit stop. You're talking to the crew chief and explaining how the car's not working. If you have a good car, you're having so much fun you don't lose focus there, either."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON NOT HAVING HAPPY HOUR THIS YEAR? "It'll obviously be the same for everybody, but it's going to be different. I like Happy Hour. I like all the extra time we get on the racetrack, but at the same time NASCAR is always looking for ways to make it better and make the sport better. Hopefully it works out and will make the racing better on Sunday. I'm not real sure how all that's going to end up. We'll have to focus real hard on first practice and we probably won't do as much qualifying as you would think. If the car is real good in first practice we'll probably run a couple of qualifying laps, but other than that you're going to work on race trim and whatever you have you're going to qualify and start 10th or 20th or first or whatever it is and race your way to the front."
HAVE YOU ANALYZED LAST SEASON FOR POINTS?
"I need to pick up on the short tracks, road courses and speedway races. The testing we're going to do is going to be on those type of tracks because I struggle there more than other types of tracks. We'll really work on that. I think our cars are really good everywhere other than Daytona and Talladega. The guys have made some pretty good improvements, but I think I need to be more consistent each week and run better on short tracks and road courses. We lost a lot of points at Sears Point, and I think we finished 13th at Watkins Glen."
WHAT'S THE MOST SURPRISING THING THAT'S HAPPENED TO YOU AS FAR AS BEING RECOGNIZED BY FANS?
"There's a lot of different places you run into race fans and you wouldn't expect it. Probably the most surprising is when you're in a restroom. You're going to the bathroom and a guy looks over and says, 'You're Kasey Kahne.' I don't have a lot to say, but that's probably the most surprising thing I've had. Other than that, you'll run into somebody anywhere. Race fans are all over and you don't expect it. They'll want pictures or say hi or something."
DOES THE CAR FEEL LIGHTER WITHOUT THAT ROOKIE STRIPE?
"No, it feels about the same. Actually it does feel a little lighter, but I think that's got to do with the rear spoiler. At Daytona it feels really good."
REPHRASED QUESTION. DOES A YEAR'S EXPERIENCE TAKE THE PRESSURE OFF A LITTLE?
"I feel like I know more about what I'm getting into -- the tracks, the cars, what to look forward to, what to try to watch for. I feel a lot better going into this year than I did last year. Last year I pretty much jumped into it. I'd never been in a Nextel Cup race and jumped right into it here at Daytona. We had a pretty good season, but I feel like this year I just know a lot more about what I'm getting into and it should help each week."
DO YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE?
"Yes, I definitely feel more comfortable. In the car I feel a ton more comfortable than I did the first half of last year. I feel more comfortable than I did when I was up here (press conference) last year. You learn and get better at things as you go along."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT FANS IN THE GARAGE?
"I think it's pretty neat. I don't know how many fans are going to be able to fit in that area, but for as many as there were in the windows today looking in, when there's a race it's going to be full of people and it's going to be neat for the fans to be above us and looking through the windows. It's kinda like a big party in there. I think it's kinda cool how they did it, and it's great for the fans and NASCAR and Daytona. I wasn't out of the car much all day, and I didn't have a chance to do much, but is kinda different with everybody looking in at you all the time. I thought it was pretty cool."