NASCAR Media Conference
May 22, 2007
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the NASCAR Nextel teleconference. We're pleased to have three guests with us today ahead of Sunday night's 48th annual Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. First we'll here from Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers UAW Dodge, who won both 2006 events at LMS. Later we'll be joined by Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, who leads all active drivers with five wins there in 11 career starts. Finally we'll speak with Joey Logano, the 16-year-old developmental driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, who beat reigning Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick Sunday in the first-ever NASCAR-sanctioned event at Iowa Speedway.
Kasey, welcome. I know this year has been a struggle thus far. This week you might be at the right track at the right time. Is Sunday turnaround day, do you think, for your team?
KASEY KAHNE: I mean, we're working hard to get back to where we were. You know, hopefully sooner than later we'll start figuring things out. The guys are doing good. I think we made gains every week for the last month. You get off a little bit. It's hard to get it all back in one week. The Car of Tomorrow has got much better for us. I don't know what we finished the other night in the All-Star race, but we made a few gains there throughout the race.
I'm thinking we'll be better this weekend, hopefully have a shot at a top 15 at the end of the night.
DENISE MALOOF: Sounds good. We'll now go to some media questions for Kasey.
Q. Kasey, you kind of hit on it, you can't obviously get it all back in one week, but could you maybe talk about the sense of urgency. I imagine it's a lot greater than it was two, three, four weeks ago when you were being very methodical about it. I know you want to win every race, but as you mentioned getting a top 15, at this point is it just getting the consistency going, get the top fives, tens? That must be hard for a guy that won the most races last year.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think more than anything it's just the consistency. I mean, yeah, we want to win races. But you don't come from finishing 20th or 25th to suddenly winning again. Seems like you have to make your way up there, figure things out as quickly as you can. But it takes time.
I'm just hoping to get consistent again, get back in the top 10, top 15. Once you start doing that, then you'll have your opportunities as races unfold and work out for you.
Q. Is there that sense of urgency at the shop? Time is ticking. Is there a little more of that now?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, everybody's just -- you know, I think people can get frustrated or just focus and do the best job they can, not get down. You know, I was feeling like I was getting down a little bit a few weeks back. Now I feel like I'm where I need to be, just trying to keep the guys motivated, working on things that we need to work on. If we keep doing that, it will get better for sure.
Q. Kasey, how do you mentally prepare for a race where you're looking for a top 15 and not a win? How do you deal with that?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, it's tough. But, I mean, it's just NASCAR. It's so competitive. When you do get behind, you don't just -- it takes a little bit of time to get back to where you need to be. You go into the race. As long as you can go in with that train of thought where you just are looking at more the finish, looking at giving the right information, keeping the guys up, racing that way, it's easy to do. Once we do that for a long enough period of time, hopefully we'll be going back to the track going, Man, we're going to win, we're going to do everything we can to win a race tonight.
Q. Does that change your driving style?
KASEY KAHNE: Oh, definitely. I mean, you have to change your driving style. When things aren't as good, if you don't change your driving style, you just crash. I mean, you have to change your driving style, change the way you look at things, the way you do things when it's like this, for sure.
Q. You just talked about changing your driving style. How much do you have to change your driving style with the Car of Tomorrow? Is it a burden changing your driving style when you're not successful combined with the Car of Tomorrow?
KASEY KAHNE: I mean, you change your driving style, but you drive what you got. You know, if the car's handling in a certain way, then you drive it that way. If it's handling a different way, then you have to drive it that other way. I mean, you just learn that as you progress in racing, as you go from track to track, learn how to get used to tracks and cars quickly, certain tires. You just drive your car to what it's capable of, what you can do. If you cross that line, then you usually hit the wall.
Q. Any thoughts of Dover in two weeks?
KASEY KAHNE: Look forward to it. We ran good at Bristol with the Car of Tomorrow. Our Car of Tomorrow program has been getting better for about the last -- probably the last month or so. I'm definitely looking forward to Bristol, hoping to change some things around.
Q. You have Pocono coming up in a few weeks. Talk about what makes that track so unique, things you enjoy about it, other things that make it difficult on a driver.
KASEY KAHNE: It's a pretty long race. It's usually hot up there. That would be about it that makes it difficult. Other than that, it's just a different track. You have three different corners. You have to change your -- change what you do in each corner to go fast.
We've had some really good cars there. Ran up front, been pretty strong. I kind of enjoy it. I enjoy having a change every time you get to a corner, similar to Indy. Every corner you get to, all four different corners at Indy you have to change for. It makes it fun to always be thinking of that. Sometimes those are the -- sometimes Indy and Pocono can be two of the most boring races to watch as a fan, but as a driver they're both really a ton of fun to always trying to get better and work on each corner.
Q. Could you be specific in pinpointing the problems your team has had this year. If you look at your four years, strong rookie year, then struggled, strong third year, now you're struggling, if there's any reason why it's been so up and down like that in your career?
KASEY KAHNE: Odd numbers. Odd-number years haven't been good for me. I don't know why that is. Even look further back than that, if you want. Just haven't had as good of years.
We're just missing on setup. That's all there is to it. We have lots of power. I think we have really good race cars. It's just a matter of setup and getting the car to work around the tire that we're running. Last year we had it figured out. This year we haven't.
That's the main thing, just getting the car to work around the tire that we run. We're getting better. We've been making -- definitely made progress in the last month. I mean, there's no doubt that we have done that. But at the same time we're still, you know, not where we need to be. We'll just keep working.
It's a little disappointing. Hopefully everybody can stay together and work together and get through it. We'll be back where we need to be hopefully before this year's out. We can have some good runs in an odd-number year.
Q. Is it too late to start thinking about the Chase? Going into the year, everybody thought you'd be a lock in there. It's going to be a struggle to get there. Is that still a realistic goal?
KASEY KAHNE: It's something we can shoot for. It seems like it gets further and further away each week with the way we're running. But, yeah, it's something we can shoot for. If we can go on a big roll, get a streak of a bunch of top tens, consistent finishes in a row, lead laps, they're still definitely a shot to get there. It's a lot closer than I would have ever expected this late in the season.
Q. Is Jimmie Johnson still the guy to beat at Charlotte?
KASEY KAHNE: After the test in Charlotte, seemed like he was definitely the guy that was so much stronger than anyone else. Then this weekend, I was really surprised that he just kind of hung out around fifth to ninth it seemed like for a lot of the race. I was surprised from where I was watching that.
At the end of the race, he always seems to find his way to the front. He did it again. I wouldn't have been surprised if he would have pulled it off. He's just really strong there. He understands the racetrack. His team, they understand it, too. He'll be definitely the guy that you have to beat this weekend if you want to win the race. I don't think there's anybody else that is as strong as him there, for sure.
Q. In that respect, his run that he's had at Charlotte, how big does that make your victory last year?
KASEY KAHNE: It made both of them huge. We beat him in both of them. If we weren't there, he would have won two more. He'd have seven. I mean, it was pretty cool to beat Jimmie Johnson, beat that team, as good as they are there. Our wins were really big at Charlotte last year. I remember them very well, hope to do it again sometime.
Q. What do you do when the times are kind of challenging like this? Do you get away from the track? Spend more time at the Sprint car shop? Run?
KASEY KAHNE: I like running a lot. I like spending time at the Sprint car track, then just spending time with Kenny, talk about things, trying to make things better. Sometimes you just got to wait, do what you can to show that you're working hard, keep the team, the morale, as good as you can. Other than that, try to make it through each day and not get too upset with not running well. It's a tough racing series.
Q. Has the level of competition been raised so far by organizations like Hendrick, RCR and Gibbs that might have caught some other teams by surprise?
KASEY KAHNE: I'd say. I'd say the way that those teams are, consistent, up front, as strong as they are, it's definitely caught some teams by surprise. But, you know, I think Evernham Motorsports is doing what we need to do. Eventually we'll be with those teams. We got good people here. We got a lot of people that want to beat Hendrick. As time goes on, we'll get back up there and be able to race with them and hopefully eventually beat them.
Q. Everybody has been talking about the complete turnaround from a year ago, not only just for you but the rest of the Evernham teams. Is it the Car of Tomorrow? Is it the Dodge? What has caused such a turn of events?
KASEY KAHNE: Just I think a lot of things kind of thrown at us in one year. Change. I mean, I don't know. We just don't have the results that we need. The Car of Tomorrow, the new nose on the Dodge, there's a couple of big things right there. There was a lot going on, a lot of work involved to make them right. I thought we did the proper testing. We did a lot of testing. We did a lot of things to help our program out. It just hasn't paid off yet this year.
We're still early in the year. I think at some point we're going to be where we need to be.
Q. What are your thoughts, and if you know your mom's thoughts, during introductions at a NEXTEL Cup race when fans mostly cheer you while they cheer and boo some of the other top drivers?
KASEY KAHNE: I don't know. My mom, she doesn't say anything about it. My thoughts are I haven't won enough, I guess. That's pretty wild to see the way that some of the drivers -- it's loud because they're getting boos and yells. For mine, I'm pretty lucky. I haven't had as many boos. You get flipped off once in a while, but usually only once or twice a weekend. It's not so bad.
I rode with Jeff Gordon in the back of his truck a couple times around parade laps at racetracks. It's pretty wild to see some of the stuff that gets thrown or pointed at him.
Q. When you're going through one of these periods, how do you not kick yourself and say, It's all my fault?
KASEY KAHNE: I mean, you would if you hadn't won races. If you hadn't won 13 poles, seven races in the last few years, you'd kick yourself, probably think you couldn't drive. But we've had some great races. We've done a lot of good things. I think that's the same reason why the team can't kick themselves. We just have to keep working hard, trying to figure out what we need to kind of come out of this slump. When we do, we'll hopefully be back to where we need to be, back up front again.
Q. I know several drivers have their particular teams and certain songs or music they listen to throughout the race weekend or the actual race. What types of music do you listen to throughout the race weekend at the actual race in order to get you motivated and pumped up?
KASEY KAHNE: Man, mine changes pretty often as new songs come out, as I listen to different people. I like country music a lot. I think right now my favorite is a song called I Tried, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Pretty good song. Kind of gets you going. The kind of music I like. It works out good.
DENISE MALOOF: Kasey, that does it for you today. We appreciate your time. Thanks for joining us. Good luck on Sunday.
KASEY KAHNE: Thanks.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|