NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference Tuesday, Aug. 10,2004. KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) DODGE NOTE: Kahne, a 24-year-old driver from Enumclaw, Wash., finished fourth Sunday in the Brickyard 400. He finished third on Aug. 1 at ...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference
Tuesday, Aug. 10,2004.
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
DODGE NOTE: Kahne, a 24-year-old driver from Enumclaw, Wash., finished fourth Sunday in the Brickyard 400. He finished third on Aug. 1 at Pocono and his back-to-back top-five finishes have propelled him to 11th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings, 31 points behind 10th-place Ryan Newman and one point ahead of Evernham Motorsports teammate Jereemy Mayfield. Kahne is also running away with the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title, enjoying a 250-185 advantage over his nearest challenger.
DISCUSS YOUR WEEKEND AT INDY
"For us to go to Indy for the first time and race, it was fun. I've always wanted to race there. I've gone to a lot of races there and watched. To finally race there was pretty neat. To finish fourth, it was pretty much an up and down day. We were pretty good at the beginning of the race. We got a flat at the start of the race. Our right front went down and we got into the wall. It tore the car up pretty good. We went a lap down. The guys fixed it and we got our lap back. We were pretty good after that. We weren't quite as strong as we were before it, but obviously our Dodge Dealers car was really fast. We got a top five, and it ended up being a good points day, too. We gained a lot of points. We moved up to 11th, and we're only (31) out of 10th and pretty close to seventh (94 points), so it was a real good day for our whole Dodge Dealers team."
IS THE TEAM GETTING MORE CONSISTENT EACH WEEK?
"Yeah, I think so. That's something we had to do, get top 10s and get consistent and finish all the races. We were trying to do that earlier, but we kept having little problems and we'd end up not finishing the race. Then we'd have a good race and then we wouldn't finish. It just wasn't going as well, but these last three went pretty good. We've got to keep it up this week at Watkins Glen. It'll be a tough track, but we had a good test up there and hopefully everything goes smooth up there all day. If we can leave there with a top 15 we'll be happy."
HAS ANYTHING MENTALLY OR PHYSICALLY CHANGED WITH THE CAR OR YOURSELF?
"The cars have been really good. My whole team works on them every week. Tommy Baldwin (Team Director) has been improving on them. I think we have some of the best racecars. Hendrick is up there and the Yates cars. There are some good cars, but we're getting better. I had a week off and I went home and got time to hang out at home and race a sprint car. I came back with what I thought was the same mindset, but we've been running better. Hopefully something happened and we'll have good things going on the rest of the year."
ARE YOU LOOKING AT WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO MAKE THE CUT?
"I really don't watch until the end of the race, but at the end of the race and the Monday after I'm definitely looking at that and seeing where everybody else is and where we're at. It's a huge deal the way Nextel Cup is doing their point system. I think it's a great deal this year for it to work. You have to look at it. It means a great deal to our team, Dodge, UAW and everybody behind us to get in that top 10. We have to work real hard to get in the top 10. It's definitely a little nerve-racking. It's got to be. There's a good bit of pressure on us now to get there. At the same time it's our rookie season and that takes a little bit of the pressure off. At the same time, we want to finish in the top 10, and we want to finish better than that if we can."
COMMENT ON FUTURE OF YOUR BUSCH PROGRAM
"There's only one other race I'm going to miss and that's Memphis. I'm not sure who's driving it yet, maybe Tyler Walker. They've done a great job working with me. I was supposed to go test Michigan on Monday, but we're really focused on Watkins Glen this week. Shane Hmiel went up there and tested the Busch car for us. It has a little bit, but at the same time I'm going to make sure I can race it when we race the races together."
HAS THE WAY PEOPLE RACE EACH OTHER CHANGED?
"I think it may have a little bit just recently but not much. You hear people say NASCAR drivers are riding around for 300 miles and then racing the last 200 or 100. I don't think that's the case at all. Ever since I've been in the Cup Series, from lap one, I'm racing as hard as I can. I think it may have changed just a little bit recently with a few guys, but for the majority of the field I think it's the same. Everybody is racing just as hard."
WOULD YOU CONSIDER BRICKYARD 400 ONE OF THE BEST DAYS YOU'VE HAD THIS SEASON?
"I think some of the things that went on that day, the racing, the passing and coming back up through the field I think it was definitely one of the better races of the season for us. Take out where I hit the wall and I think it could have been one of the best races I've ever run in a stock car, but other than that, it was one of my good days."
WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO RACE FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
"I think driving the cars I'm still learning a lot, but at the same time we have a lot of good things going on. I would hope by the end of the season if we're in the chase we're ready to win. This team is not a rookie team. A lot of it is Bill Elliott's team from last year. They've got a rookie driver, but other than that, they've definitely got a team that can win the championship or run in the top 10 or top five pretty easily."
COMMENT ON EVERNHAM DODGE PROGRAM
"I think our engines are getting really good. They've been awesome all year long, but Mark McCardle and the whole engine shop has been doing a great job to give us more power. Indy is a track where you need a lot of power, and we had that this weekend. Our bodies, our cars, we have new Evernham chassis and they seem to be working real well. Bill and Jeremy both finished, Jeremy just out of the top 10 and Bill was in the top 10, so it was real close to having three cars in the top 10 for the whole team, and that seemed like a pretty good weekend for us."
ARE YOU HAVING FUN?
"I look serious a lot because I am, but really I'm having a lot of fun, especially inside. I enjoy what I'm doing, but we've got to work hard right now to make sure we get in the top 10 and then do what we can the last 10 races."
WHAT ROLE IS BILL ELLIOTT PLAYING WITH THE EVERNHAM TEAMS?
"He's helped me a lot early in the season. I haven't talked to Bill as much lately until Indy. We talked a lot at Indy. I went over to his garage area a few different times to pick his brain a little bit and learn some things from him. He's definitely helped a lot with Evernham Motorsports. He's been doing some testing for us in the 91 car, and that's made our cars better by him testing and we haven't had to. I've already used a lot of mine up. I think we've just got one test left, but Bill has done a lot for Evernham Motorsports this year. He was more one on one with me earlier in the season. Recently he's been doing a lot with Ray and the team. He still does things one on one with me when I have questions, but not quite as much probably."
WHAT HAS IMPRESSED YOU MOST ABOUT YOUR ARRIVAL TO THE CUP SERIES?
"I think probably when we ran second (three times in first seven starts). That was probably the most impressive so far this season with what we've done. Since then just being consistent here recently has been pretty good, too. It's been a huge change this year with the things I've had to do, not just at the racetrack or driving the car, but there's so many other things to do to make everybody happy and get things going in the right direction. The fans, that side of it has changed a bunch. I've done a lot for the fans this year, too."
IF YOU DON'T MAKE THE TOP 10, WILL THERE BE ONE CERTAIN RACE YOU LOOK BACK ON THAT MIGHT HAVE PREVENTED IT?
"There's nothing we can do now. There's definitely a couple of races I can think of now, but there's nothing we can do. We've put it behind us. If we don't, 11th would be a great finish for us, too. If we could get 11th this season, that's the only thing about the way the points are. If you're 11th in points and do a lot than the guy in 10th or ninth in the last 10 races you're going to feel like you should be up there, but that's just the way it is. I think we'll just shoot for finishing 10th."
DO YOU LIKE ROAD COURSE RACING?
"Yeah, I enjoy it. I learned a lot at Infineon and enjoy road racing a lot. We had a good test there a couple of weeks ago. We should have a good weekend."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BUSCH SERIES IN MEXICO NEXT YEAR?
"I don't know if I'll be running it, but it's got to be a good thing for us to go out there. NASCAR wouldn't do it if it wasn't good for our sport. Hopefully it'll be a lot of fun. If I do go race there it'll be new for me. I've never been to Mexico."
COMMENT ON YOUR POPULARITY
"It's good. I really like it, the way all that's happened so far. My crew likes it, too. They tease me about it, but it's all pretty fun to have that kind of following. It's pretty much changed a lot, and it's about all the time now where you run into somebody that says, 'good job' or 'keep it up' or wants a picture or something like that."
HAS THE BATTLE WITH YOUR TEAMMATE IN THE POINT STANDINGS CREATED A LOT OF EXCITEMENT?
"I think there's some pressure because we both want to finish in there and we're so close. Everybody in the shop is excited, and the engine shop, and Jeremy is having fun and I'm having fun. Hopefully we both get in. We've got great racecars. If we keep it up and keep getting consistent finishes, maybe we'll get both Evernham cars in the final 10."
IS THERE A GREAT RELATIONSHIP AND UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN YOU AND JEREMY?
"We have a good relationship. I really like Jeremy. I've liked him all year. We've been able to work together and help each other a lot. He helped me a lot and our teams have been able to work together and get better from that. If it comes down to it, it'll get intense because both of us want to get in that top 10. Who knows what will happen? I know we won't run into each other and take each other out. That's about the only thing Ray has ever said. He doesn't mind what happens on the track as long as we don't take each other out everything will be fine."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE GOING BACK HOME?
"It was a lot bigger than I expected. I got to throw out the first pitch at the Mariners game and did some things with my mom at her new store. A lot of fans were asking what was going on, but it was a lot of fun. It's not even close (to the way it used to be)."
HAVE YOU AND JEREMY DISCUSSED WHAT TO EXPECT FROM EACH OTHER ON THE TRACK?
"No, we really haven't. I don't really see why we would. I think we need to keep racing just like we have been. Teammates, I try helping him when I can on the racetrack and he helps me when he can on the racetrack. What we end up is what we end up. I think both teams are really good. I don't know what's going to happen. Hopefully we both end up in there and don't have to worry about anything else. Bill Elliott's the guy has helped me a lot at the start, but week in and week out Jeremy and me talk and do things at the track or when we go testing together and figure things out together. We end up running, not the same setups but pretty close most of the time. I just think we can help each other with the way each other's seasons are running or the feeling of the car. It just seems like we both have more confidence when we work together."
-courtesy of Dodge Motorsports-