NASCAR Media Conference
May 2, 2006
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the weekly NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teleconference in advance of Saturday night's Crown Royal 400 at Richmond International Raceway. First a quick reminder for the media members who will be attending the Richmond race, scheduled for Friday morning at the track's infield media center, a good opportunity two guests are scheduled, Danny Hamlin at 9:30 followed at 10 o'clock by former series champion Dale Jarrett. Today we are joined on this call by Kasey Kahne, driver of the #9 Dodge Dealer's UAW Dodge for Evernham Motorsports. Kasey is the defending champion for this week's Richmond event. That was his first NEXTEL Cup Series victory. Kasey has two victories this year and comes into Richmond fourth in the in the series points' standings.
Kasey, first off, have to ask you how you're doing after that rough ride Monday at Talladega and are you all set to go for this weekend?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to Richmond and getting to go out and test tomorrow, we're going to do some testing tomorrow for Charlotte. It should be a good week. We just got in the wrong spot in that crash. They decided to go five-wide on lap nine, and I think it was, you know, way too early to do anything like that. I don't even know if you're supposed to go five-wide there ever such that, you know, you just lose air on your race car and stuff.
There's a few guys that decided to do it and we took -- we were one of the 14 cars that were in the wreck. I just got hit in the door, and it basically knocked the wind out of me. And I just needed a minute to catch my breath because of asking for a minute they thought I was hurt when really I was just asking them if I could just, you know, just give me a minute and then we'll be fine. But you know -- inaudible -- said I was going to the hospital and different things which wasn't true, I never did and don't plan on going. I feel great.
Q. Are you feeling okay today, are you sore at all, and have you been cleared to test?
KASEY KAHNE: I feel good. I'm not sore at all. Actually my left hip and my shoulder and my elbow, they are just a little bit, you know, bruised just from hitting something or getting hit hard. I mean, that's it.
So I feel really good and I've been a lot sore after other wrecks. I need to get cleared tomorrow, I'm meeting with Dr. Petty in the morning and I talked to him this morning, everything sounds good and just get clear before I can test. Yeah, I have to get cleared first.
Q. So there's a possibility you could test tomorrow?
KASEY KAHNE: I will test tomorrow.
Q. Okay. Do you worry at all that that's going to leave you too sore for Richmond?
KASEY KAHNE: No, I'm actually not that sore at all. I'm just a little bit sore, which you get when you wreck, and I've been a lot sorer in my racing career and raced that way. It's not a big deal at all.
Q. In the preseason at Daytona, Ray made so secret of it that this was a pivotal year for you to perform, or he was concerned people would not want to sponsor you or his race cars anymore; how did he convey that to you?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, he didn't really say too much about that to me. I knew myself that I needed to get in the Chase. I knew we could perform.
It's just a matter of getting the right people in the right spot and working with them, having good communication. Ray set all that up for this year and we've been performing. We've been doing everything really well, communicating really well and had some great finishes.
We had two races that haven't been our fault, things have happened and without those two races, we'd be right in the middle of leading the points. I'm very happy with what's going on, and I know Ray is, too.
Q. I was hoping you could sort of give me in your words the difference between Richmond and tracks like Bristol and Martinsville, how they are unique as far as short-track races go.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, Bristol, they are really different from each other. Richmond you use more brakes than like at Bristol, and you just need -- I mean, they all kind of work together. I mean, you've got to let -- your car has to drive good and turn well, you know, off-throttle has to really coast and turn good when you're off throttle. So that's probably the biggest thing. But they are all similar; in that case you just have to drive them each a little bit different because of the size and the aggressiveness of the other drivers.
Q. I would ask you, is it different for you running for a championship versus a year ago when you wanted to get that first win, or are you someone that always subscribed to, if I go out and win every race, then the championship will come; or is there really a different mind-set now where you're up there in points and really running for the championship?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think there is a different mind-set. You know, last year, all I wanted to do was to try to win races. I didn't even think about points half the time. Basically all I thought about was winning and that was the wrong approach. This year, it's more about making sure we finish every race, being consistent, getting the car to drive really well in practice, and having better cars in the race. And that's what I've focused on, you know, just being consistent and finishing is main the thing year.
Q. I was wondering, going back to Monday and the crash at Talladega, I understand there was some sort of misunderstanding between you and the track's safety team that sort of led to this medical clearance thing. Could you give your side of that and how that related to why you didn't want to go to the hospital?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, they were just looking out for their drivers, looking out for their people that they were working on which was good.
All I asked for, when they got to me, I was trying to breathe, I was trying to catch my breath. I got hit and it knocked the wind out of me, and I was just sitting there and I just asked them to give me a minute. I put the window net down and everything and said, "Hey, just give me a minute." They thought that something was wrong because I asked for that minute, and it was just trying to catch my breath and get out of the car.
It wasn't that big of a deal. I've got the wind knocked out of me plenty of times and that was it. That's all that happened, and they took it like I was hurting and needed to get me to the hospital. I didn't want to go. It wasn't -- last thing I wanted to do was go to the hospital when I wasn't hurt.
Q. There was no further diagnosis than the guy just asking you, are you all right, give me a minute; they didn't do any other check-up on you; just when you were catching your breath, you needed to go to the hospital?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I guess they decided that on our little ride in the ambulance that, you know, I needed to go get checked up. I think they just look out for their drivers, they look out for what they were doing, there's nothing wrong with wanting to take me to the hospital. But I just didn't think that I needed to go. If I was hurting, yeah, definitely I needed to go to the hospital, but if I wasn't ...
Q. If NASCAR had a traveling safety team with guys that you saw every week and knew you well, would something like that be less likely to happen? Is that something you would want to see some day?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, I think it's nice to have that, other series have that, but I think these guys were doing a fine job. I just didn't need to go and they thought that I did. It wasn't -- yeah, if they had their own medical team and we knew, they may understand us a little better but they may not. They may still have wanted to take me to the hospital yesterday because I was trying to catch my breath; I don't know.
Q. Wondering if you can explain about the difference from the driver's point of view of racing Talladega, and then five days or four days later, I'm not sure, Richmond; what are the key things that are different in terms of the skills or mental approach from the driver's point of view?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, you go into Talladega and you know that there's a good chance you're going to be in a wreck. You know, especially when you're starting in the back and your car is running good. But not like a Tony Stewart, some of them guys, their cars are really good and they are still in some of the wrecks.
When you go into Talladega, you know that we can be in the middle of it, and you never know what's going to happen there. And you just have take a different mind-set on how you race there.
Going into Richmond, it's more up to you. If you put your car in the wrong spot then, yeah, you're going to be in a wreck. If you don't put your car in that spot, you have a lot better chance of finning the race in one piece and getting good results. It's a totally different type of race in Richmond than Talladega.
Q. Does it have a certain feeling of relief at all that you're going there?
KASEY KAHNE: It's nice when you get past Talladega. I really enjoy racing Talladega and Daytona; every time, I enjoy it. I wish I could go race there right now and start yesterday's race all over and race right now. Once you leave there, you're happy, you just know that you have a better chance of finishing the next race. But at the same time it's just the way those tracks are. We had a great finish at Daytona, and hopefully we have two more good finishes in the next two restrictor plate races.
Q. You're heading back to the site of your first win, how important is it to you to pick up, not just your third one of the year, but where you won your first career race?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, it's important to go back there and run well. We were able to do that last year the second race of the year. We finished eighth and we were pretty strong all night. We never got up to the leaders but we were pretty strong.
You know, going back to this race, the race that we actually won is big. I mean, you'd love to do it two years in a row. I know things are going to be a lot different this year. We tested there and the setup that we ran last year was two seconds off the pace. It wasn't even where we needed to be. So we had to do a lot of work to figure out a new combination, and hopefully we'll have that when we go back and be able to put up a good fight.
Q. You're a winner and you might be series champion one day, have you observed skills and attributes in past champions that you try to acquire?
KASEY KAHNE: In things that they have done?
Q. Yeah, basically their qualities, you know, their physical qualities, their mental qualities, those kind of things that you would want to emulate.
KASEY KAHNE: Oh, yeah, if you're a race car driver, you can learn from a Jeff Gordon or a Tony Stewart, a Mark Martin, those type of guys. Those are the guys that you look up to and the guys that you try to, you know, figure out how they race and how you need to race in order to be a champion or in order to win races. It's nice when you can look up to those guys and actually learn things from them just by watching them and kind of see what they do each and every day.
Q. Does it seem almost night and day going into Richmond this year? Last year the hometown gave you a whole day, a street named after you, a key to the city and you had that confidence of having gotten a win at the elite level; how different is it is it feel going in this week versus what it was like a year ago?
KASEY KAHNE: I'd say the biggest difference is that we can win now and that we have and we won at that track and we feel we can win there again.
Going into that track last year, I think my average finish there in the two previous Cup races was probably 28 or 27, somewhere in there. So I didn't go in there with like really high expectations. I guess I should have went in with higher expectations, because, I mean, it's just a track that we can run good at. But I will now that we've won there. Once I win at a track, I'll go back there the rest of my life knowing I've won here at least once, I can win here again if things go right.
Q. Do you look at it as a place where you really established, "I'm a player here; I belong?"
KASEY KAHNE: Not really. I feel like that's where we won our first race but that didn't prove a whole lot. That proved that we had a good car that day and we won.
I think this year, the way things have went with the consistency, and the two victories so far, I think that's shown a lot more that this team is good and that they are going to be, you know, contenders each week. I think the way we've raced this year has proved a lot more than that one win last year.
Q. Just wondering, I think it's nine of the last ten at Richmond have been won from a Top-10 starting position; you did it from the pole last year. How much more do you have to put an emphasis on your qualifying runs when you're there at Richmond?
KASEY KAHNE: Basically like any track, I think this is going to be the toughest track to pass at Richmond than we've had in a long time there. The bottom just seems like it's going to be really hard to pass, and you're basically going to hold the car under and they you are not going to be able to pass you. It's definitely going to be good to qualify good. Those long runs that we'll have there, you know, 100 laps straight or 70 laps straight, that's where you're going to be doing all your passing. I don't think early on, tires and stuff, there's probably not going to be quite as much passing as there's been in the past.
Q. The struggle the of your teammate, Jeremy Mayfield, what's that been like for the whole organization?
KASEY KAHNE: You know, it's too bad. We're all wanting him to run better. We're all wanting to help and kind of figure out what they need to do. They ran good yesterday and ended up 13th and had a really good run.
So I know that Jeremy and that team are good. We all know Jeremy can drive and get it done, and he will. It's just a matter of everything starting to click their way. I think hopefully they are going in that direction. Richmond is a great track. Arlington is a great track. Hopefully he'll have a couple really good races over the next month.
Q. Just trying to find out, is anybody testing for you today, and do you have somebody lined up to test for you tomorrow if you can't test tomorrow?
KASEY KAHNE: No. They are just taking the day off. We're getting the cars ready and figuring stuff out. I'm the only driver in the No. 9. We had Jeremy (ph) fill in yesterday to get a couple points there. But to go test, that's my job. I'll be doing it tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Just want to once again thank all the media for participating today. And Kasey, especially thanks to you for joining us, and good luck to you this week as you're out to defend a NEXTEL Cup Series victory for the first time, best of luck.
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