NASCAR Nextel Cup Teleconference Tuesday, July 27, 2004 West Coast Media Kasey Kahne (Driver ...
NASCAR Nextel Cup Teleconference
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
West Coast Media
Kasey Kahne (Driver #9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
Note: Kasey Kahne is currently 14th in the NASCAR Nextel Cup points, and leading the Rookie drivers in the "Raybestos Rookie of The Year" points. Kahne is coming out of an 8th place finish at NHIS, and will travel to Pocono with the Nextel Cup Series where he won the pole in June and finished the race 14th.
Q: Is there any concern that maybe some of those drivers who have teamates within the top 10 might insert themselves into the race for the championship at some point during the last ten races?
KK: "Not really for me, I would hope that everyone is racing really aggressive right now, and hopefully that stays how it is. I mean if it gets to be too much more there is going to be wrecks and people crashing other cars just for points, and I don't think that is what needs to happen in this chase for the championship."
Q: Obviously your racing as hard as you can to get in the top 10, do you do anything different other then just trying to win whenever you can?
KK: "That's really all we can do, and that's what we have been trying to do for a while. We had three weeks where we just lost a bunch of points. We had a good weekend last week and we just have to keep doing that, we have to get top 10's and try to win races."
Q: Tony Stewart mentioned that the two of you shared a cell phone conversation today. Do you feel a little better about Tony Stewart now after you have had a chance to personally talk to him?
KK: "Yeah I do, I mean Tony is a good guy who has helped me out a lot over the years with getting to where I am at now in racing and at different tracks he has always helped me with different things to do. We talked about some stuff today and everything seems fine I think. He had his opinions and I had mine and we kind of went through it all and hopefully we worked out some things that even happened earlier in the season that were still on our minds. Hopefully we don't have anymore problems and everything is good again."
Q: Were you at all surprised that you had some run-in with Tony Stewart?
KK: "I was real surprised. I mean he is an aggressive driver and so am I at times and I didn't expect to have any problems when we would run into each other. Hopefully it was more just things that happened you know racing incidents and nothing intentional it just happened. I wish it wouldn't have happened, but it did, so I think everything should be fine after this, and hopefully we are able to race some more midgets and things like that against each other down the line."
Q: Will a phone call make up for what happened there at Chicago where you lost three positions in points?
KK: "Yeah, we lost a lot of points that day and I think that is the main reason everyone was so upset. Everybody is battling to be in the top ten, Tony was in the top ten, and we were leading the race at the time, he had a great racecar too. We ended up getting wrecked and getting hardly any points out of the day and losing a bunch of spots. So yeah I think that just made everything a lot worse and everyone a lot madder over that."
Q: With this new format you definitely still have a shot to get among the top ten, does that make you a fan of the points system right now?
KK: "It definitely makes me a fan right now. Even at the start of the year when they started it I thought it would be something neat to try and I mean they don't have to stick with it next year, maybe they will, maybe they will change some things, but for this season I thought it was something neat that they could do differently that might make it more exciting, it might not. It definitely gives a rookie, or somebody that hasn't run consistently enough to be up towards the front in the points, to still have a shot at getting in the top 10 or even winning a Nextel Cup Championship."
Q: Is your focus now more or less on Ryan Newman because he is number ten in points, more so then it is on Jimmie Johnson who is the series leader?
KK: "Obviously Ryan is the target, but at the same time they have such a good team and he is such a good driver that I really don't think Ryan is the guy. I think there's gonna be somebody that is going to get in the top 10 that is not in it right now, and I think Ryan will definitely still be in the top 10."
Q: How did you get your start, and what made you decide that you wanted to be a racecar driver?
KK: "Well it all started when my dad was in sprint cars. Not racing, but working on them and being part of a team, he sponsored a car, and then owned his own. I grew up with it all my life and that was all I ever really watched, you know racing as much as I could, and went to as many races as I could, and just tried to race. When I was finally able to I was just about 15 years old and that is all I focused on. That is all I ever wanted to do so I was open for any direction, and I ended up in NASCAR and it has been great."
Q: Has the fan reaction surprised you?
KK: "I think it surprised me a little bit at the start of the year when we had 3 or 4 top two's in 3 or 4 weeks, I think that was definitely a surprise. Since then it's been really up and down. I have had a lot of tough things go on in the past 3 to 4 years trying to get to this series, so I don't think that it is a huge thing. Everyone thinks it just happened, but I went through a lot to get here."
Q: How long did you race in midgets before you got moved into NASCAR?
KK: "I raced one full year in 2000, went for the championship and we won the National Midget Championship in 2000 for Steve Lewis. After that I just raced as many races as I could, but really it was just one full year in Midgets."
"I raced a lot of sprint cars for a lot of years. I race winged sprint cars and I got into some non-winged stuff, but there was only one year I went for the championship where I was able to race all the races."
Was all the Midget and Sprint car racing in the Northwest?
KK: "That is where it started. Starting in 1999 I moved to the Midwest and started racing for Steve Lewis and Gary Zeronian and my dad's sprint car still and we just did a lot of racing at a lot of different tracks dirt and pavement both."
Q: Who asked you to come and race in NASCAR, how did that work?
KK: "Richard Childress was actually the first person to approach me. It was after I had won the Midget Championship, it was that next March or April. He called me up out of the blue when I was at my grandma's house, it was pretty wild I never really expected a call from somebody like that and he called my cell phone. We won a lot of races and did some pretty cool stuff in the midgets and sprint cars, and Richard Childress called me that year."
Q: How did you get together with Ray Evernham?
KK: "Well Ray went to a lot of midget and sprint races too he had watched me for a long time. Last year when I was driving the Great Clips car, somehow we ended up starting to talk about things, and by the end of the season we were trying to put a deal together."
Q: Your season seems to vary a lot, any thoughts on that?
KK: "Yeah, it's really been up and down since the start of the season we've had some really good races since then, but at the same time we've had a couple bad ones. Really most of the races that we weren't in the top 10 we've had problems. We've actually had good enough cars just about every weekend, not every weekend, but a lot of the weekends to run in the top 10 and we have been up there at times but had problems or something happen. It has just been a part of having a rookie season. I think it has been a great rookie season, but it's definitely been up and down."
Q: If it weren't for the point situation, and had it been earlier in the season, would the situation with Tony Stewart have been less volatile as far as emotions go?
KK: "I think it just depends. Earlier in the season we would have never had any other incidents with him throughout the year and that would have been the first time and we would have thought of it maybe a little bit differently. Either way, your still leading the race and it's the restart and there shouldn't really be a wreck like that coming up to turn one on a restart. I don't know I think it would have been a little bit different, but not a whole lot."
Q: Have you ever hit somebody the way he did, could that happen where you'd hit somebody and you really didn't mean to?
KK: "I think it can definitely happen. I mean its something that none of us want to happen, and Tony obviously didn't want it to happen here. He didn't want to crash me, it's the last thing he wanted to do. But yeah it can definitely happen, everyone is so aggressive in this series and wants to win, and wants to pass, and you don't get a ton of opportunities to pass so when you get a chance you gotta take advantage of it. I think it just turned into a wreck and it is unfortunate that it did."
Q: How big of a role will the Watkins Glen race play in trying to get back up into contention?
KK: "It will play a huge roll, I mean the next seven races are going to play a huge roll. We will need run good there no matter what. Yesterday we tried to test there and it rained all day so we weren't able to, so it will definitely play a huge roll in how the points come down."
Q: Infineon and Watkins Glen are two different kinds of tracks, but can what you learned at Infineon help you at The Glen or is it a totally different type of situation?
KK: "No, I think it can help you a lot. I think Infineon helped me a lot with shifting and with breaks and turning into each corner and where at, it will help a lot at Watkins Glen too. It's a different racetrack so it's not going help with the corners, but it definitely going to help with a lot of things there. Since I was able to run the whole race at Infineon, I will be able to take a lot of what I learned to Watkins Glen."
Q: What is the biggest thing you have learned from Bill Elliot?
KK: "Probably just that it is a matter of how bad do you want it, and how much time and effort you put into it. Like Bill told me, if you bad enough and try hard enough once you get to this level you be able to succeed at it and do well. If you don't put enough into it then you won't do quite as good."
Q: Many collegiate athletes have gone into the pros and have said that one of the biggest things they have had to deal with is how do they get around losing. Some go from being undefeated in the college ranks then they go to pour teams where they lose a lot. You had enormous success in USAC, and I can imagine the frustration in getting your first win in NASCAR, I mean how do you get your mind around all of that?
KK: "Wow that's a good question, in the past while in the Busch series, I was able to go back and run sprint car midget races and still win, I was able to win 7 or 8 races a year. Now this year there is just not enough time to do any of that. It is not easy not to win races that's for sure."
"When I was in the USAC cars, I felt like I could win every time I was there and in the cup car now, you feel like as a driver you could win, but there are so many good drivers and so many good race teams that you can't. You have to have everything go right, you have to have a perfect day and it's not easy to have a perfect day, because there are few cars that do, and you still have to beat them. Its tough to win races in the series for sure."
Q: Has the matter with Ford been a distraction this year?
KK: "No, it really hasn't been a distraction to me. I mean I wished it didn't go on and that I didn't have to think about it. Its just one of those deals where there was really nothing I could do, I had to do what I did. I fulfilled all my obligations to Ford in the past and they didn't have anything for me this year and I had to go on, I couldn't wait and sit out a year or anything like that. I was lucky enough to be able to drive for Ray Evernham now."
Q: Ford did not come through with any Cup offers?
KK: "No they didn't, or Busch, or Truck."
Q: When you had started driving for Steve Lewis, it was to Ford's understanding that you became part of a Ford driver development program. Is that what you were apart of, or was that not even a part of the understanding that you had?
KK: "Well to a certain point it was, when we sat down to drive for Steve Lewis they were there and wanted to be part of it. Driving for Steve was great, but his program was already set up and I drove for them, and I learned a lot from Bob East and Steve. After that I was driving for Ford, driving in Ford Busch cars and it was all great until they had nothing for me."
Q: So when you started driving for Steve Lewis they didn't come to you and say hey you start here, we're going to get you into a Ford car in the Cup series?
KK: "That was the whole idea and what we expected, and that is what we all talked about, it just never did."