KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) -- The Winner "We had a really great racecar. The Dodge Charger was awesome. We started out really loose and fell back to sixth or seventh. We just kind of let the car come to me. It took a ...
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) -- The Winner
"We had a really great racecar. The Dodge Charger was awesome. We started out really loose and fell back to sixth or seventh. We just kind of let the car come to me. It took a little while and we finally started reeling in the leaders and ended up in second before the first pit stop. I was real happy with it. We made some changes to tighten it up some and got it good. Then we lost it back a little bit. The track changed a lot. I knew going into the race it was going to take fine adjustments to make the car right because the car was so slick, whether it was the front of the car or the back of the car. We were just fortunate enough to hit the adjustments right late in the race and made 'em better on that final stop and had a great racecar those final 20 laps."
COMMENT ON PASSING STEWART FOR THE LEAD
"I was reeling him in slowly. He got out there and he was a little faster the first 20-25 laps of that run. Then we got equal and I started reeling him in. I just got battling with him. I knew he wanted to be leading on that final pit stop so we could get out first. His car was really good at the start of a run. I wanted to be in the same spot he did. It was a good battle, a hard battle. He was doing all he could to hold us off, and at that time our car was a little better. It was turning better. I just waited until I got the opportunity and was able to set him up and make the pass and get the lead just in case there was a green-flag stop, depending on what we were going to do -- two tires or four tires. It ended up being a caution and from there it was just another good pit stop by the guys to get us out first."
KENNY FRANCIS (Team Director No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
"It seemed like we started off good and everything was going along good, and we were actually leading and had a restart and just seemed like then we just lost the handle. It got really loose, and we had to figure out what was wrong with it. It took us a couple of stops to get it back right. Luckily at the end there it was pretty good on a long run and he ran Tony down and got the lead. We had a good last pit stop and held on to the end."
RAY EVERNHAM (Owner, CEO Evernham Motorsports)
"He's very committed and he's extremely talented. For whatever things he's worked on this year, he's done really well giving feedback. If we can just keep him in the cars I believe he can race with anybody out there. We're a little bit concerned about some of the road course stuff coming up, and Boris Said is going to help us with that because that's where Kasey has the least experience. Again, I think the first time at Martinsville we ran terrible. The second time we ran second, and he was going to probably in the top five last weekend if we hadn't had that motor problem, so he learns very quickly."
COMMENT ON THE DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
"I might have crashed it (last season). Who knows? Today I was able to stay calm enough. Five hundred miles is a long time, and we were able to make a lot of adjustments to try to make the car better, similar to Atlanta. We started out good, fell back to 11th or 12th and did the same thing today in the middle part of the race and came back forward. I think just working with Kenny and my cousin Kole, he's my spotter, they all do a good job of keeping me calm and telling me there's a pit stop coming up, let's think about what we need to do and not overdrive the racecar, just drive it to where it can go at this point in time and make some adjustments on it."
COMMENT ON WHY YOU DIDN'T PASS STEWART WHEN HE CAME UP ON YELEY
"That was just wondering. I wasn't sure what to do in that situation. I thought I could block him in behind J.J., but knowing Tony, that might make him mad. I didn't want to mess with that. I was racing Tony. It wasn't about J.J. why I got to take the lead. J.J. would do what he could to help Tony, but he wasn't helping either one of us. He was just trying to stay out of the way. I was thinking about blocking behind him, but I thought better of it. When we got to turn three, Tony made it three wide and got real close to me. I actually got a little loose there and couldn't pick up the throttle as hard as I wanted and we were side by side off four, but it was probably just a little respect. There's no need to force something like that and try to trap somebody. It's not about lapped cars why we take the lead. It was about having a better racecar and doing the right things at that time. I thought we could get him, just be calm and don't have any contact."
DO YOU THINK THIS WILL END THE CHARGER-INTREPID DEBATE?
"I think we ended that question in Atlanta. In our mind we answered that question back in Homestead last year. We thought the Charger was a good option and a good car, and we've proved it's a really good car this year. We're pretty happy to be racing the Charger."
ANY CONCERN ABOUT THE 19 TEAM?
"Absolutely. It's like having three kids and two of them are doing really well, but you're more concerned about the one who isn't. We know our equipment is good. We know our engines are good. We know we've got the formula. We've just got to figure out what's going on with our recipe, why they're struggling hitting it some. The good news is that inside our own house we have the answer. All we have to do is follow it and work on it."
WERE YOU SHOCKED THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO PULL AWAY FOR A FIVE-SECOND VICTORY?
"Yeah, I thought I had my hands full taking the green flag. I thought I definitely had my hands full with those guys, and I knew I definitely needed to get by Robby Gordon and not let anybody else get by him before I did. I finally cleared him. Kenny made the right call to tighten the car up, and the car was really good those last laps."
COMMENT ON LOSING THE CLOSE ONE HERE TWO YEARS AGO
"I've learned a ton since 2004. I was really new to the stuff, and I feel like I've got a lot more experience, and I'm a better, more mature Nextel Cup driver now. I was hoping we didn't have to get in a position to make it a photo finish or anything like that and take that chance. We just tried to get out there and when I heard the times Matt and Tony were running behind me, I just tried to keep it where it was. We kept opening it up just a little bit."
COMMENT ON YOUR THREE WINS COMING AFTER STARTING ON THE POLE
"I don't know. I think if your car is good enough to qualify up front, even though the qualifying package is so much different or it can be so much different, I think I've got eight or nine poles now and we've got three wins, so we haven't won every time I've been on the pole but all my three wins have been from the pole. Maybe it gets the team and driver a little more excited and we're able to focus and win on those occasions. I'm not real sure why. Maybe we just have some great luck when we start on the pole."
DO YOU THINK THIS IS YOUR BREAK OUT TIME?
"I hope so. You work as hard as you can whether you're in a mini-sprint or sprint car or the Busch Series and just try to learn every time you're on the track. Right now this is the best race team, and I feel like I'm doing the best driving that I've ever done, and I think the race team is doing the best setting up the cars and giving me the best cars possible to drive. We're getting some victories because of that and getting some good finishes when we don't win, so I think it's just a great team effort. It's all coming together at the same time."
EVERYTHING IS BIGGER IN TEXAS. DOES THAT GO FOR THIS VICTORY?
"Yeah, it's a great victory. It's one of the tracks I look at every year that you want to win at -- Texas, Indianapolis and Daytona. If you can win at one of those tracks you've definitely done something. Really if you can win at any of them you've done something. To win at Texas, the way they pack the grandstands with fans and the hospitality here is second to none. It's definitely very nice to win a race here. I hope I can get more as time goes on."
ON TEAM STRUCTURE
"I don't think I'd want to sit up there all alone. It's nice to have a couple of guys you can bounce ideas off of. I think that helps me a lot. If definitely helps your confidence when you can all three agree on the same thing. I'd really rather work with somebody. It's more satisfying to get a group of guys together and work as a team rather than as a one-man dictatorship. It's a lot more satisfying and I think you get a lot more done."
WHY DID YOU STICK WITH THE CHARGER?
"I don't that we voluntarily spearheaded it. We represent the Dodge Dealers and the Dodge Dealers sell the Dodge Chargers. That's our choice of car, but I've relied heavily on what Kenny and the rest of our engineering staff tells us. When we back-to-backed the car against the ('04) at Homestead, we really found there wasn't a huge difference. We blamed a lot of the inconsistency last year on we couldn't figure out what the car really wanted. We weren't communicating as a team, and we felt like there was more potential with the Charger. My guys have worked very hard in the off season, testing it and working on things and they're doing a good job. They were right. The Charger we believe still has a lot more potential in it than the Intrepid."
IS THIS A CHAMPIONSHIP TEAM?
"I don't think we could sit up here and do what we do if we didn't consider ourselves championship contenders. I'm really proud of Kenny and Kasey both. They have both matured quite a bit over the last couple of years, and I think right now they are as good as anybody out there. We are going to have some Achilles Heels here and there. As we've said, we've got road courses that we've got to get a little stronger at, but with the job they're doing now, they've certainly got their sights set on that championship chase."
COMMENT ON STRUCTURE OF TEAM
"It's just personalities. I don't know that our structure would work everywhere. It works really well on this team. Kenny is the team director. Basically everybody on the team reports to him, but he does not have to deal with the day to day preparation of getting the car and crew ready. Mike Shiplett handles those responsibilities. Kenny mainly works on the performance of the car and communication with Kasey. A lot of teams are doing it now anyway. They call it crew chief, car chief. We're just have a very an engineering type structure. I know it's been called crew chief by committee, but that's really not so. Kenny makes the final call on the pit box, but he also used information from a lot of people. Whether or not it would work for everybody depends on the people. If they're willing to make it work, I think it's a better structure because it's using a group IQ and gives you a better chance of making those decisions, but these guys are making it work."
"The Evernham power was great, and the pit stop was good enough to get us out front. I knew I had to hold on for our team, and it ended up working for us. We came so close to winning at Texas a couple of years ago, and I won the Busch race last year. We've got the momentum on our side right now. Everybody is doing a great job. Things can change. I've been on the other side of it a lot, too. I hope we can keep this momentum going. We knew this Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger team had the potential to do what we're doing. Now we've just got to keep on doing it.