NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Sprint All-Star Race
Topics: Sprint All-Star Race
May 17, 2008
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA
THE MODERATOR: Winner of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint All-Star race, Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge, crew chief Kenny Francis, and team owner Ray Evernham. Great effort out there tonight.
Kasey, how does it feel to win the Sprint All-Star Race?
KASEY KAHNE: It feels great. Really can't believe it. Can't believe we were in Victory Lane. It's been a long time. It feels so good to take it back into Victory Lane, to win a race like this. This is such a tough race to win. 24, 25 really good racecars in it, and we drove by them.
We got voted in by the fans, which is just really, really special and feels good to know that we have that many fans following our team, our Budweiser team. To get voted in by them and to be that strong, to basically pass every car, just work our way to the front feels good. Feels like we did a big deal tonight, did a lot. You know, it gives us a lot of momentum. Gives me a ton of confidence and momentum as a driver. Just really looking forward to next week, the Nationwide race, as well as the 600 next Sunday night.
THE MODERATOR: Kenny, made some good calls out there tonight. Anyone in particular that you thought stood out the most from the pit box?
KENNY FRANCIS: Just watching the race, I felt like the 16 car was really strong. Looked like the 99 car was strong for most of the race. Not sure. Must have overadjusted or something. I honestly thought our car was pretty good all day. I mean, it really ran good on a long run. It would match or better the leaders' times as we got our clean air versus his clean air.
I thought if we could get up there, we'd have a shot at it. We got pretty close to the top five, then we made that call that fortunately worked out for us.
THE MODERATOR: Ray, your thoughts about having this victory here tonight? Maybe a good jump-start as we continue points racing next week.
RAY EVERNHAM: I do feel good. I'm really proud of these two guys as well as the rest of the guys on the Budweiser team and Gillett Evernham Motorsports. We've been saying that our stuff is getting better. It's real easy to keep saying that, but you've got to have some results to show it. Tonight we've got the results to show it.
As I said, I've got all the confidence in the world in these two guys. They can win the races, challenge for championships. We needed something to get competence and momentum and things back to prove that we're not as bad as it looked, and tonight we did that.
Couldn't be happier for everybody. Again, this is certainly about the fans. If we've ever got to dedicate it to somebody, it has to be to them, because without them we wouldn't have been in the race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll start with questions.
Q. Kasey, when you came in here yesterday, you were really hang dog, said you didn't deserve to be in the race, if you didn't do any better than you did in practice, you weren't going to make it in the race. What did you find? Seeing how good everybody is in clean air, is racing now all about track position?
KASEY KAHNE: I'd say some of it's track position and clean air definitely helps. My car was the best it had been all night out front. But it also passed cars all night and we worked our way up there one by one. It drove great. I mean, our Dodge Charger was great.
As far as yesterday, that was some anger. I don't know. I just get frustrated. I get down. You know, we weren't running as good as we were. Like I said, this is momentum. These are things that can turn your season around and get you going in the right direction.
As a driver, yeah, I was down. I'm glad Ray and Kenny talked to me today and we got things figured out. I really took my time and tried to give them the best information I could give them throughout the race. And Kenny did the same with the adjustments, made the car better. It worked out. It was a team effort.
But, yeah, I was frustrated yesterday. You know, the fans got us into this race and I'm very thankful for the fans 'cause we needed it tonight. But once we got in there, we were the best car. You know, yeah, the 99 was good, the 18 was good. There were cars that were really good. But at the end of the race, my car was on and I could have went basically as fast as I wanted at that point.
Q. Kasey, getting back to the fan vote, there will be those who say you didn't race your way in, you didn't deserve to be in. What's your response to that?
KASEY KAHNE: My response is, I mean, this weekend, Sprint and Lowe's Motor Speedway, Humpy Wheeler, they do a lot with the fans. They make this a fan-friendly weekend. The fan vote started a while back. It's not like this is the first year of it.
Yeah, I mean, I want to race my way in. I don't even want to be in the open. I want to be in because we won races last year. But we weren't in that situation. It's really cool they give the fans an opportunity to vote. I mean, they did it. They put us in. For some reason, we ended up being the best car tonight. That's just part of the rules.
I mean, yeah, I don't know. That's just the way it is. That's the way this race is about. We took advantage of it and we won the race.
Q. Kasey, you were saying your comments yesterday, you were down in the dumps, things had piled up for you. Still you got a million dollars, but nobody is going to call you a prophet. You said as far as winning races, we're a long way away. 24 hours as it turned out. Besides your fortunes, is there anything clicking with the car that hasn't been in the past?
KASEY KAHNE: I guess it wasn't as far off as I thought. Maybe a long, long ways to 24 hours.
You know, I was disappointed. I felt like we had a bad practice yesterday. I didn't feel like we were that good as far as what I was looking for in the car. But we don't race during the day either. We don't race in the sun. Tonight the race, you know, the open, we weren't all that great, but the longer the race went, the further the sun went down, the more the track was shaded, the faster our Budweiser Dodge got. It was like that until the last lap of the race. It was still getting faster and faster.
You know, the track conditions, everything worked for us tonight from where we were yesterday. We qualified 15th because we were really loose last night. You know, I guess it paid off today.
Yeah, I mean, as far as us coming out and winning the 600, we got some work to do. We have to keep working hard and doing the right things. But it shows that our cars are not as far off as I made it sound yesterday.
KENNY FRANCIS: As far as that is concerned, he wasn't happy after practice. We've been trying to work on kind of a specific problem for a while. But looking at the lap times, my engineer Chad and I, we looked at them after practice, compared both our practice and the other practice, and I felt like we were a top five car easy just lap time. I hated to tell him that because it's like, well, shoot, we always say that, end up running 10th or 15th.
I can understand why Kasey is kind of down. I get that way myself pretty bad. We got to realize we're racing -- I feel like we're racing the best drivers in the world. You can bring over Formula One guys or IndyCar, whatever. I feel like this series is the best in the world and I feel like we're racing against some of the smartest crew members in the world. I feel honored even to be here much less run in the top ten or win races.
You have to look at the competition you're against and say, If we don't happen to win this week, if we can run 10th, we've had a good week. You always want to win. It's always disappointing when you go as long as we have without winning one. It's great we finally one year after, what, a year and a little bit, so...
Q. Kasey, about five laps to go, the showdown, are you thinking you're going home in about 10 or 15 minutes or were you hoping to win the fan vote?
KASEY KAHNE: Personally, I was just making sure I didn't hurt my car anymore and just try to finish. If you can finish in one piece, from there hope that we did win the fan vote.
I wasn't trying to catch the leaders. There was no chance of that. So it was about finishing the race where we were. You know, you hear from different people throughout the week that you're doing all right in the votes or you're doing good in the votes. So I was just trying to think that hopefully we would get into it.
KENNY FRANCIS: Yeah, I try to put all that completely out of my mind. I saw in the preliminary race that the car was pretty good. After about 15 laps, it would get rolling pretty good. We would be running down everyone in front of us. Like Kasey said, at that point we knew we weren't going to win that race, but I knew we still had a good car and we still would have a shot to work on it and make it better if we could get in the main race. We were fortunate the fans thought enough of us to vote us in.
Like I said, I was kind of -- you don't want to get voted in, but I'm really glad we did and I'm really glad we won the thing because we definitely showed like I feel we had the best car. I think we deserved to win the race. We had a good car and we drove a good race and we called a smart race. It worked out.
Q. Could you talk a little bit what a win, whether it's in the All-Star Race or a points race, can do for a season as far as getting morale turned around.
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I can speak for myself. Just winning tonight, I'm already looking forward to next weekend's 600. It shows that -- you know, as a driver sometimes when you're finishing 10th to 15th, you feel like you're battling the car, even though everyone is battling the car these days, you feel like you're battling a little bit more, that you're further off than what you are.
So, yeah, I mean, it just gets me more excited. It gets me excited to come back to the track next week. It gets me excited to go test Wednesday wherever we're testing. I think it's good. I know it's good for myself and I definitely know it's good for the team and for the guys that work on the car. They need to win once in a while to be like, Man, I'm putting in so much time, so many hours, and it pays off. We won a really big race tonight. So, yeah, I think it's really big for everybody.
THE MODERATOR: You're racing tomorrow, aren't you?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I'm racing in Iowa tomorrow. We're going to leave at 6 a.m., wheels up, to fly to Iowa, run in that race at the new Iowa Speedway. I've been looking forward to it. I've heard it's a really neat track, really nice place. Should be a fun 200 laps.
Q. Ray or Kenny, last year y'all were pretty out to lunch for most of the year. Near the end of the year you started to get some things figured out. This is validation you figured out more. Can you identify what kind of things it was that were off that you have maybe figured out or have you taken a completely new approach to get things turned around?
RAY EVERNHAM: Well, we needed to make our cars better at the end of last year. We needed to work on basics, you know, the block and tackling. We had missed it aerodynamically. The Car of Tomorrow provided a new platform for that, but we worked on getting everybody pulled in the same direction. We had a lot of good people working on projects last year that didn't have anything to do with one another. Mark McArdle is the gentleman I put in charge of doing that. With the Gilletts coming in, handling the sponsorship, business side, letting Mark handle the process and systems, it made things a lot more organized, it allowed me to step back and really take a look at what we needed to do again.
I kept saying, again, we weren't that bad, we weren't that bad. We just needed a little bit of momentum and a little something to hold on to and prove that we could do it. I think this was a really big night for Gillett Evernham Motorsports. For these guys, too. People have got to believe. I think the biggest thing we did is we're starting to believe that we can again.
Q. Kasey, this race is known as a wreck fest. We even saw a few in the showdown earlier today. Give me your thoughts on going a hundred laps without one crash in this race.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I was surprised at that. When the race went green, I started I think 24th, Tony was 25th, he backed up. I backed up to him a little bit. We just rode there for three or four laps, waiting for everybody to get their cars pointed straight, start racing.
I was surprised there was no wrecks. At the end, once I took the lead, I was going, Man, no cautions, no cautions. The last thing I wanted was a restart, having somebody starting beside me. That was the last thing I wanted.
I was just hoping for no cautions, and we didn't have any. It worked out perfect for us. Yeah, everybody drove a great race to not have cautions.
I want to say, too, as far as the COT car, the tires, the tracks, it's difficult. It's difficult to pass cars. It's difficult to run behind cars. It seems like they don't work as well. But when your car does work, you can get some speed and you can still pass. I figured that out tonight. I found that out tonight.
But as far as getting that right setup, it takes a lot. You know, when things are right, you can pass. It may be a little tougher than the old car, but if you work at it hard enough and long enough, you will get by the guy in front of you.
Q. Ray, you brought Dodge back into this sport. Tonight Kasey became the first Dodge driver to ever win the All-Star Race. What does this mean to you?
RAY EVERNHAM: Didn't Ryan win it?
Q. In a Ford.
RAY EVERNHAM: That's a little bit of trivia I didn't know.
It certainly means a lot. Dodge has been a big part of what we have been able to do. It's great. We won some big races with Dodge this year, with Penske winning the Daytona 500, certainly now us winning here.
I think we need to put together probably some better finishes for Dodge because Dodge as a manufacturer has been down on the bottom of the totem pole and we need to get them up there.
It does feel good for Gillett Evernham. Again, my partner in there George Gillett is not here. But I did call him. I was happy for him being part of this because he's been very successful in a lot of other sports. Bringing him some success, we feel good about it.
But we are, again, excited and hopefully the people from Dodge will be excited because I know they pay big bonuses for wins like this. We'll have to find out if the bonus works for the non-points races, too.
Q. The Camping World Showdown in Iowa is going to be huge. What made you decide to go race there?
KASEY KAHNE: Really, as a team, we've wanted to go test there. We've never tested there. I've always heard it was a neat track. I know Rusty Wallace, if he's behind something, it's really nice and perfect. So I've wanted to go race there and never had the opportunity.
We started talking about this. I saw Kevin Harvick did it last year. He won the race and then went there. Ran second there. But it was something I wanted to do. When it was put in front of me, I was like, Man, that will be fun. That will be a good time. Yeah, be a little tired, but I'll be able to wake up a lot easier now than if we didn't win.
THE MODERATOR: Guys, congratulations. You put on a terrific show tonight for the fans and we appreciate it.
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