NASCAR Media Conference
August 23, 2005
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. First we've got a little bit of housekeeping always we always do. This week's NEXTEL Wake-Up Call begins at 11 a.m. Friday at the infield media center at Bristol Motor Speedway. Dropping by will be Tony Stewart. (Audio interruption.) Kasey is 19th in the current standings with two top 10 finishes in his last five races. He appeared headed for another good finish last week at Michigan after starting on the outside pole, but a fuel thing ruined his day. This week he will start his fourth career race at Bristol, where he finished 14th in the March event. Kasey, what is the focus for you and your guys this week heading to Bristol?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, it's just, you know, keep trying to get some good runs in. We had a really good car last week in qualifying and at the start of the race, and then just had some things go on throughout the race and didn't make it back up there at the end. You know, I think the Dodge Charger and everybody at Evernham Motorsports is doing a good job. For them to get a victory last weekend was pretty cool for Dodge and for Ray and everybody on the team, Jeremy Mayfield, really helped him in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. You know, we're just excite d for Bristol. It's a track I really like going to, excited to get there and see how our cars are. I think we'll be pretty good. We were a top-10 car at the start of the year and ended up 14th. I think we should hopefully be up there again.
DENISE MALOOF: I know you and Jeremy work really well together, and certainly Evernham Motorsports having something to celebrate with Jeremy's win last week at Michigan, I'm sure that carries over to everybody in the shop, both teams.
KASEY KAHNE: Well, yeah, I mean, that's the big deal for the teams, for the shop, the engine shop, everybody that works on those cars each week and puts a lot of time into Ray Evernham's programs, you know, I think is pretty excited that we could win. No matter what, that was a really cool victory for us. The Dodge Charger has won twice now. It's been two Evernham cars, so that's good for Evernham Motorsports.
DENISE MALOOF: We're going to go to some questions for you from the media.
Q. What is the one thing that stands out in your mind about Bristol?
KASEY KAHNE: You know, just intense every lap. When you get on the track and practice, if you're not up to speed in your first corner and go for it, you get run over from behind. It's so fast, so loud, everybody's in one spot. It's really exciting. It's a lot of fun to race at. You know, it's intense. It's just a really intense racetrack.
Q. What do you remember about the first time you raced there after the race was over? What was one of the first thoughts in your mind?
KASEY KAHNE: The first time? Man, I don't really remember that. That was a while back. But I know every time you get out of the car there, if it's qualifying or practice or during the race, I mean, you just -- you know, you're excited, you're on edge. It's just one of them tracks you have to be going for it every lap. I don't know. I don't remember the first time.
Q. Last week Ryan Newman said that those who are in contention for the points had to look out for guys who were in contention that had teammates. In other words, he was saying that teammates that are out of the points picture could get in the way and probably play some team ball. What are your thoughts on that comment?
KASEY KAHNE: You know, I don't know. I mean, he's right on edge, so they're probably watching for anything with some of the other cars that are on edge. I know myself and Mayfield, you know, we just race hard each week, and whatever we get, we get. You know, I'm not out there blocking or doing anything to help Jeremy make it in the chase. I know he's not doing that for me because we don't have a shot at it. But definitely I think teams that are close need to watch out for everything. I mean, it's big to be in the Chase, and every team wants to. If they don't have a driver in it, they'll do anything to get a driver in it, I would imagine.
Q. If it came down to it, would you try to cover Jeremy's back?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I mean, it depends what it was. If it came down to it and I was battling for a position and needed to hang on to that position to, you know, help Jeremy get in the Chase, I mean, yeah, I'm going to drive as hard as I can to, you know, make sure the guy doesn't get by me. But there would never be any extra contact or anything like that to prevent that. Your points are what you got. You worked for it all year long. You know, you can't mess with other people because of that. You can race hard, but there's no reason to mess around and mess with other people's chance at the points. It's a full-year deal. It's a 26-race deal to get in, it's not one race.
Q. How surprised are you, honestly, that you are not in the Chase for the Championship? I know last year with everything so high, you've got the win this year, but how surprised are you that it turned out that you would not make the Chase?
KASEY KAHNE: I mean, I'm surprised. I thought we definitely, you know, would be right in the middle of it, you know, going for it early in the year. But, you know, it's just the way our year's went, some of the things that have went on, some of the crashes I did at the start of the year, just things that have went on throughout the year. It's a competitive series. It's a tough series. You need things to go right. And we've had too many errors, too many mistakes, and are not going to make the Chase. So really right now, I'm not -- you know, that's just the way it is at this point. But definitely in earlier in the year, I would have definitely thought we would be a lot closer than we are.
Q. Does it make it that much tougher not to go for it since you did go on and get the win and challenge so many times for wins? You have that portion of being new to this series out of the way.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, you know, I want to win races and do whatever we can to win races no matter who's leading the rest of the year, whether they're going for points or not. You know, we're not going to hold anything back. Just going to try to win races and get our program as strong as it can be at the end of the year to, you know, be ready for '06, for sure.
Q. I know you raced at the Oscaloosa thing, sprint car. If the schedule worked out right, would you want to do that every year? Your thoughts on being a part of that thing again, just the hospitality, fans didn't seem to mob you, but orderly came up and got autographs. Seemed pretty laid back.
KASEY KAHNE: That's how it is. That's how sprint car fans are. It seems like they're there to watch the race. You know, I sat in the grandstands at the Knoxville Nationals with all the fans and signed some stuff throughout the night had a good time. I definitely look forward to running Oscaloosa again next year, running the Front Row Challenge and maybe the non-wing race the following night like Tony did. If we ever get back to Michigan during the Knoxville weekend, maybe try at the Nationals, too, depending on where things are at. But I'm a huge dirt, you know, sprint car, wing fan. No matter what, I'm going to always be around those tracks if I can be, if I don't have other commitments.
Q. And what would you say to fans that are used to just watching NASCAR, whether it be Cup, Busch, or Truck, just watching asphalt completely in terms of what they're missing out with the sprint cars?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I just -- I mean, it's fun, it's entertaining, it's a good time to go and watch. You know, if you don't mind getting a little dirt on you, it's a great time. I mean, I think when fans go and watch that kind of racing, they enjoy it and go back to it. But, you know, they have to get there first. And I love it. Tony Stewart loves it. We both will keep being part of it, you know, doing those races, you know, hanging out with the fans afterwards, whatever it takes to be part of sprint car racing.
Q. Excluding the NEXTEL level of competition, what do you feel has been your most challenging situation as a racing professional?
KASEY KAHNE: Probably the ups and downs of NASCAR, the ups and downs of racing in general. You know, one week things will be great, and you'll go into the next week expecting things to be great and something happens. I mean, it's tough to handle sometimes, especially when it happens a couple times in a row, and you just don't know what to think. Those are definitely the toughest times for me, is when things don't go the way that I want. You know, and in racing, very seldom do they go the way you want. So that's something that you have to, you know, really work on, on getting through, when they're not going the way you want them to.
Q. If you look back to the beginnings of your career, the things that maybe were obstacles early on, do they really just sort of not seem quite as intense compared to what you're having to deal with in the level of NEXTEL?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, for sure. I mean, you just -- coming through the different ranks, learning things, you know, that's just all part of learning. It's really cool to, you know, be part of that and have done those years of racing that I did. And now it's just so much different, you know, the learning. You know, you learn each week, but at the same time things go on each week that you don't even expect. And it's just part of growing, part of learning and racing in the NEXTEL Cup.
Q. Can you identify a few examples of your job as driver and communicator that fans might not understand, that are routine to you but not to them?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, you know, hospitalities, getting up in the morning when you're at the racetrack, doing hospitalities and meet-and-greets for the different sponsors that are at that race. You know, you go straight from that to the driver's meeting, straight from that, try to get some lunch, and then straight out to driver introductions. And your whole morning is taken up by fans, you know, and by sponsors and commitments. And that's -- you know, that's something that, you know, I think a lot of people don't recognize. You know, I used to have people say, "Oh, you got it made racing, being a race car driver." And I think I have it made. I think it's the greatest thing I could ever do. But at the same time they don't think you do anything but race. And there's so much more when you get into the Nextel Cup Series, you know, weekly. There's weeks when I'll go three weeks in a row without one single day off, you know, and that's something that a guy working a normal job doesn't have. I mean, it's up and down. Then a week you'll have three days off and really enjoy that week. So there's just a lot more out there than what the regular person or the regular fan sees.
Q. I know you're pretty good friends with Tyler Walker. What do you think about him being released from the No. 38 Great Clips car? Will you be driving that car in the remainder of the Busch season?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I have one race left for Great Clips. Hopefully we can run good in that one race. But, you know, it's just a tough situation. He's a rookie driver. He, you know, doesn't have all the laps, and things happen. You know, they weren't able to test him much this year like the Reed Sorensons, Carl Edwards. They test non-stop and they race non-stop, so that helps. I feel kind of bad for Tyler. I don't think he got a fair shot. There's more that goes on with the race car than a rookie driver, you know, can fix at times. And he just -- you know, he did a good job when he was on the track, and made some mistakes, but I think you need a little more time than that, you know. I drove that car this weekend and didn't feel like it was very good at all. So I think there's more there than just saying the driver's not getting the job done.
Q. Do you think he wasn't getting the equipment he needed?
KASEY KAHNE: I think at times he wasn't getting the equipment he needed. There were other times when he did and ran decent or he did and crashed. You know, those are times that are tough. But I thought, you know, there was a lot of times when he just, you know, wasn't getting the equipment, wasn't getting the car set up properly.
Q. Do you enjoy racing at a track like Bristol where it's real tight, hot-tempered, crazy Saturday night racing? Is that something you enjoy doing or is it, "I've just got to get through this"?
KASEY KAHNE: I actually really enjoy it. Last year when the points were a lot closer, I was a little nervous going into this race because you can lose a lot, you know, at Bristol or you can gain a lot. And I was nervous. But this year, without having close points at all, it's just another race, and it's a great racetrack. It's fun to go to, you know, twice a year, you know, beat-and-bang a little bit, you know, on and off the throttle, steering. I mean, it's non-stop for 500 miles. Not 500 miles, that would be forever. 500 laps, I think it is (laughter).
Q. Just seems like 500 miles?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah. But, yeah, I love it. I think it's a great track.
Q. Have you developed, after having two or three years in NASCAR, have you kind of decided maybe you prefer certain types of tracks or do you think when it's all said and done you're going to be more like Tony in terms of excelling at all different kinds of tracks? Are you trying to be as diverse as you can or have you discovered there's certain places you tend to do better?
KASEY KAHNE: It is definitely certain places I tend to do better. But I'm really starting to like all the tracks. At first I didn't care for the Bristols and Martinsvilles as much, the superspeedways, the drafting and staying in front of cars, and definitely the road courses. Now I'm starting to like every one of those tracks and I feel like we're pretty decent at the short tracks, pretty decent at the superspeedways, and the road courses, I still have a lot of work to do there. But hopefully by next year, you know, I'm ready to, you know, run up front at every track we go to, and I think we're definitely going in that direction.
Q. Do you think the fact that Tony has won at all these different kinds of tracks, you came from a similar background as him, do you think that's a pretty incredible thing or says quite a lot about him?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I know it's incredible. I mean, the thing about NASCAR is you need -- you know, you need to have a good race team, the good people behind you. And we all have that now. And for him to do that at every track, that shows that he's got a great team, but he also can drive at every single track and figure out what he needs at every track for a setup. You know, those guys got it together right now. They're the best team right now. Jimmie Johnson was the best for a while. Greg Biffle was the best for a while. And they run good at certain tracks. But Tony Stewart is the best right now and he's running really good at every single track, and that's what nobody else has done this year. The way it goes new, Tony is hands-down going to take the Nextel Cup if he keeps doing what he's doing, for sure.
DENISE MALOOF: What is the biggest difference in your learning curve this year compared to the learning curve you went through last year in your rookie season?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, last year was, you know, learning a lot about the car, the Cup car and how to drive it, you know, the things that come along with it, with the fans and the media. This year has been probably all of that plus, you know, not running as well as what we want to run, and that's been a huge learning curve to get through those times and still go to the next race and feeling like we're confident enough that we can win there. The biggest thing is to keep your confidence up even when you're not running good. I feel like we're good to go right now. I mean, we finished 29th this weekend. I feel like we can go and win Bristol. You know, we've just got to keep doing what we're doing and hopefully soon we'll get in that -- start running that top 10 each week.
DENISE MALOOF: I know the confidence is there, but I bet you've learned so much this year.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, you learn -- I've learned a ton, you know, just in a ton of different situations you get in throughout a race or during the race week. You know, I learned a lot about going through a lawsuit. I learned a lot about running my sprint car team. I mean, there's so many things I learned this year as a driver, as a person. You know, I can carry that stuff with me for a long time and keep making me a better race car driver.
DENISE MALOOF: Let's go back to Bristol for a minute. This will be Rusty Wallace's and Mark Martin's last race at Bristol. We all know how well Rusty does at Bristol. Have you guys enjoyed watching them play out their final season together? And they're both running well. They've gotten a lot of tributes at a lot of places they go this season. Is that something that you guys take inspiration from, that you've enjoyed?
KASEY KAHNE: I've really enjoyed it. You know, just getting to talk to Rusty and Mark once in a while and listening to some of the things they talk about and do each week. I mean, I've really enjoyed that side of it. I've enjoyed getting to see some of their tributes or some of their pictures that different racetracks have given them from 15 years ago when they were in other cars. You know, just watching the fans, too. They've both had, you know, a ton of fans following them throughout this year, throughout their careers, but also this year just, you know, supporting them with their final runs. I think it's pretty cool. I'm excited to be part of their final run, and it's going to definitely be weird without them in each race or in the points. I mean, they're both in the top five, so they're still getting it done. You know, if you talk to some people, it's good when you retire when you're still on top of your game, and that's what both of them right now.
DENISE MALOOF: Rusty has nine of those big trophies up there at Bristol. What makes him so good there?
KASEY KAHNE: I don't know. That would have to be something you could ask him. I wish I knew what makes you good at Bristol because, you know, he's really good there. There are a few guys that are really good there, and Rusty is definitely one of them. You know, he's a threat every time, you know, the Cup cars are at Bristol.
DENISE MALOOF: What is your goal for the rest of the season? What do you really want to do?
KASEY KAHNE: Win races. That's really all I want to do is win races. If we can win races, we'll have good race cars and be ready for next year, we'll be ready to go at the start of the next season. If we can't win races, if we can't get up front, you know, then we're going to have to really figure some things out over the winter. But, you know, the guys are working really hard. If we can finish off this season strong with top fives and some victories, you know, we'll definitely be looking at, you know, getting in that Chase next year rather than looking from the outside looking in.
DENISE MALOOF: You seem to be back at that level, though, particularly last several weeks. You guys seem to have picked it up a bit. You're definitely on an upward climb right now, it looks like. Is that pretty much the case?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, we're definitely on an upward climb. We're still not right where we want to be, but we're definitely on the upward climb. That's big. Once you get on that upward, hopefully we can just keep going up instead of going back down. We're definitely going the right direction. Just see how it all turns out. We got 13 races to see how the season ends up. I think we can, you know, hopefully get at least one more win, maybe two, and finish the season out really strong for Ray and everybody at Dodge.
DENISE MALOOF: Well, we look forward to watching this Saturday night at Bristol. I thank you very much for joining us. Good luck on Saturday night. Thank you very much for your participation and we'll see you next week.
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