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September 6, 2009
KERRY THARP: We're joined in the media center with tonight's winning team. We have Kasey Kahne along with crew chief Kenny Francis.
Tremendous job out there tonight by this No. 9 team. They move up five spots in the points standings from 11th to 6th. Second win of the season for Kasey Kahne.
Congratulations. Your thoughts about tonight's victory?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, it feels awesome to win at Atlanta. To win on a night like tonight when the Chase and everything has been so tight for the last two months, you know, this team just stepped up. The pit stops were awesome all night. The calls from Kenny Francis were perfect.
It was great to drive there. I knew we could go fast for about 15 laps, faster than anybody. It was just after that I would get a little bit too loose to hang with Harvick and Montoya. 11 laps to go, you know, just getting to the front was what I was thinking I needed to do. Once we did it, everything was perfect from there out.
So just a great team effort. Something Richard Petty Motorsports really needed.
KERRY THARP: Kenny, talk about some of the strategy and some of the things that unfolded from the pit box this evening.
KENNY FRANCIS: Well, it was a long race. It was a tough race for us. We started out pretty good. But got a little bit off there. We had our travels kind of wrong. We had to make an adjustment there and give up some track position to get that a little bit better. Luckily that worked for us.
But once we did that, then our car balance was wrong, so we had to kind of work the other way on the balance of the car. We made a lot of adjustments trying to tighten the car up. Finally got it better.
It was just really, really fast on a short run. Like Kasey said, it would fall off a little bit too much, more than the other two guys on the long run. Three-quarters of the way through, I knew if this came down to a short run at the end, we might have a chance, if we can stay up here close. Sure enough, that's what happened. Just an unbelievable night.
KERRY THARP: Questions for this No. 9 team.
Q. Kasey, a couple times in Victory Lane you mentioned the push from Reutimann on that final restart. Would you consider that critical to the win or did it just kind of seal the deal for you?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, you know, I think it wasn't critical to the win because I watched it on TV and it didn't really give me a whole lot of a boost, but it did help a little bit. Rather than making it three-wide or something right there, which you never know what would happen in turns one and two. Once I got that little extra burst of speed, it just cleared me into turn one on the bottom. I was able to just rip off the bottom and get beside Harvick off of turn two. Once I was beside him, I thought I had the preferred line into three on fresh tires, was able to stick it right on the white line and go from there.
Q. Kasey, how different is your approach night race to a day race? Kenny, you raced here earlier in the year in Atlanta in the daylight. Any big difference with the setup for the night race?
KASEY KAHNE: For me, on a normal track, it seems like you get a little bit more grip at nighttime, which is good, because the track's a little bit cooler. I don't really think that's the way that this track works.
Really day or night, it's gonna be slippery. You're going to slide around a lot. That's what tonight was really the same as a day race to me from the driver's standpoint.
KENNY FRANCIS: Yeah, the setup we ran tonight was based on the setup that we ran earlier in the year. But it was an evolution of what we've learned through the year as well, so we had three or four different things in the car just based on what we've learned over the course of the year.
But, you know, I feel like if you have a good-driving car in the day, this is just my feeling, that as you go into night, I think it will still drive good, but you do have to adjust on it and you just have to kind of see which way the track is going to go. Some tracks get a little bit looser, some tracks get a little bit tighter. This one seemed to free up. Kasey said running the Busch race last night that's what it did. We had an idea of that going into it. You're never sure until you get in the middle of it and see what happens.
Q. Kasey, about the track. What are your thoughts on what appear to be the biggest crowd here at this place in years? Also, when you come back here in March, the track surface will be 13 years old. Any concern about it being too treacherous at that point?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, to see the crowd that was here tonight and be at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend, you have good weather, there were so many people just during driver intros, the crowd was excited, they were yelling and things. It was great to see.
Since I've been racing in the Cup Series, I haven't seen a crowd like that, especially that excited. There's a lot on the line right now with the Chase. I think a lot of the guys going for the Chase are in that seventh, sixth to about 14th in points, are all kind of up in the front tonight. That was quite the battle. I think it was a good show for the fans.
I thought it was great to see that many people here and that excited for a Sprint Cup race.
Q. Kasey, it seems like sometimes with the way the points are, when other people that you're racing with in the standings also have good runs, you could win a race and only move up a spot or two spots. This late in the season you moved up five spots. Do you almost look at this as it's not waiting for Richmond, but you did race your way into it tonight? Are you comfortable enough with the lead to feel like you did that? Are you surprised to see you jumped that high that quickly?
KASEY KAHNE: I'm not sure what it is from where we are to 13th or anything like that. But to have a race like we had tonight as a team, to step up like we did and gain the positions, it's so close. I don't know if it's been eight weeks, six weeks, four weeks, I don't know what it's been, but it has been a while where the points have been so close from sixth to 14th, 15th, 16th. So, yeah, we were able to move up a lot tonight, which is pretty awesome.
But something could happen early in the race at Richmond, you could lose a lot. We just need to go in that race the same way we came into this one, the same way we went into Bristol, the same way in the race before Bristol. Keep working hard, communicating, doing things to make our car race good on Saturday night. That's key. If you can race and pass and run side-by-side, then hopefully we'll be in good shape.
Q. Kasey, a lot has changed. From Evernham, Richard Petty, you have been a contender, then down, then back up, in and out of the Chase. Is there anything this season has changed that you think will affect the stability in being more consistent? Do you think things have leveled out and they'll stay that way now?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I hope so. That's what you aim for. That's what everybody's working for at RPM. I hope that's the direction we're going. The way things are going right now, we were in the similar situation last year. We just got in a wreck at Bristol and certain things happened those last few races and we didn't make the Chase. This year it's kind of changed a little bit.
We're on the border every single year it seems like. It's tough. But that's the sport. That's what we're in right now. And the competition is fierce. It's close.
Q. Kasey, this was a clutch performance all the way from your team. Did you put any kind of do-or-die urgency in the team or was everybody well aware?
KASEY KAHNE: As a team, we have myself and Kenny, we're both a little bit quiet, but we all work well together and we talk about things and know where we stand and what we need to do.
We came into this race just like we came into the last few. It worked. Our guys are pretty much -- I think we're kind of a veteran group. We've worked together for a long time. We know each other a lot. We know a lot of things that we're thinking. The way I say something, Kenny understands it. It's great to have that relationship and that communication line.
You know, I didn't have to say anything. Kenny didn't have to say anything. The team knew and everybody knew, and they stepped up tonight just like they have all the other races this year.
KERRY THARP: King, congratulations on this victory tonight. Kasey moves up five spots in the points stands. You had to feel good about how this team performed for you this evening.
RICHARD PETTY: Standing on top of the truck, it was a real team effort. Like I was telling him, he ran pretty good, backed up, pit crew kept putting him out in front. Put pressure on him to have to run that much harder to prove that I'm doing my job, y'all are doing y'all's job. I think they complemented each other. It was one of those situations where he was really good on short run deals.
Circumstances fell our way right there at the last start, with a 10- or 11-lap race. I felt confident we'd be able to do good, do better than run third or fourth. It proved out right.
No matter how you run or how good you run or how bad, circumstances beyond anybody's control. Circumstances fell our way on that last caution flag, and that put us in a position for the pit crew to do their job and the driver to do his job.
KERRY THARP: We'll take some more questions.
Q. Richard, how long has it been since the word 'championship' has been a part of your vocabulary this late in the season? Do you even allow yourself to think about things like that?
RICHARD PETTY: Well, you know, I guess you go into any season saying, Okay, if we have a good year, we got a chance of winning a championship. We've been up and down, bouncing around, got off to a bad start at Daytona, then just kept plugging away, plugging away. Maybe we're like some of the other teams or football teams or whatever. Maybe we got off to a slow start, but hopefully all the stuff that we've done, all the stuff we've learned being a crew and being a team deal sort of gels at the end of the season. That's the way the situation is with the points standings now. That's the way it is. Anybody that has the last part of the season good has a chance to win a championship.
This is a good start of the last part of the season. So that's the way we're looking at it.
Q. Kasey, you mentioned yesterday this was your favorite track. How much did that play a role in your win? Is it still just preparation and smarts behind the wheel?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, it has a lot to do with preparation going into this race, the team does back at the shop. Once we get here, working on the car.
When you have a favorite track, you have a track like here and like Lowe's, Indianapolis, Darlington, certain tracks that I really like, Texas, you kind of have a feeling for those tracks and what you need as a driver. Sometimes you hit on those things and sometimes you don't.
But it just seems like tracks that you've run well at in the past, it's easier to find that setup you're looking for, that balance on the racecar. I think that's why we have our tracks that we run decent at, is just because they work for my driving style and we're able to work together and figure out those tracks.
I wish I knew other racetracks, I knew what we needed at other tracks and things. I don't know as far as car setups what we need. I know that feeling we're looking for. I just relay that to Kenny. They keep throwing things at it, going in the direction that the car needs and we've been able to hit on it a few times at some of these mile-and-a-half racetracks.
Q. In March we saw Kurt Busch lead 234 laps. Tonight we had three guys lead over 60 laps, six guys over 20 laps. Do you think that was a product of the change in tire, the night racing, or just a dominant car in March and everybody a lot more equal here tonight?
KASEY KAHNE: I think Kurt definitely had the dominant car in March. Tonight at one point, I don't know if it was the third or fourth run of the race, I was running about ninth or tenth, I think there was about eight cars kind of in a group in the front, maybe second, third through eighth or ninth all in a group. I think that's just competition. That's just teams coming to this place and being prepared and figuring out the tire and figuring out the race surface.
It changes throughout a race a lot. Everybody kind of goes to the front and back. But it seemed a lot more competitive this race than it did the first race as far as Kurt kind of dominating.
Q. Kenny, this race used to be in the fall in the Chase. Now it's out of the Chase, replaced by California. How much with the change, is that easier for teams or crew chiefs? Is Californian easier track to deal with?
KENNY FRANCIS: They're both pretty challenging. California definitely has got its issues. They're both pretty slick. They don't have a lot of grip. You got to have a lot of finesse to get around them.
I don't really know it affects the Chase one way or another. Both of them affect the Chase. This one is going to affect who gets in it. Then California is of course going to affect the final outcome. It's cool we were talking walking over here, we won California on this weekend a few years ago. It was a night race, too. That was kind of weird.
But we love going to California. We've won there before. It's a great track for us. We just look forward to going back. I think having California in the fall is gonna be a little bit easier on us because it's usually so hot out there on this weekend.
I thought having a night race here, I've been looking forward to that for a long time. I don't remember how many times we've done that here with race went late and whatnot. I think this is a good track for a night race. It worked out great.
KERRY THARP: Kenny, we'll excuse you for tech inspection.
Q. Kasey, you've been in the position in the past where you were fighting the last spot out going into Richmond. Little more safe location right now. For the guys in the spot trying to get in, what can this upcoming week be like? What do you recall going through a few years ago when you were in that one spot outside looking in?
KASEY KAHNE: Oh, man, I've been on both sides of it. In '04 we missed it by 20 points or 29 points, right in there. I think McMurray took the final spot. We came into that race looking pretty good. Then '06 we made it at the final race. We ran third at Richmond and made it.
It's a lot on the line. You're just going to that race trying to focus as hard as you can, do the best job you can. But it's tough. It's kind of like you're racing for some type of a championship right now. All the guys just trying to make it in the Chase so they have a chance at the Cup. It's going to be intense. I just look to the points. Carl is right in front of me. From fifth to 14th is going to be really intense at Richmond next week.
Q. Richard, you probably know more about winning than just about anybody possibly could know. Does winning ever get routine?
RICHARD PETTY: I don't think so. Get up on race morning, our job is to win the race. We get up on Monday morning, our job is to win the next race. It never gets old when you win.
I've been real fortunate, won a bunch of races and stuff. It never gets old. I've never won enough that it got old and boring as far as that part is concerned.
Again, it's a new adrenaline flow every time we run a race or win a race.
Q. Kasey, I don't know if you listen to a lot of radio shows, but they all talk about who is going to fall out, who is going to go in. I'm probably guilty of saying you were going to be one who would fall out. Do you feel like you were teetering on the brink of going out or did you feel like you were running better than your results? Does any of that talk radio motivate you at all?
KASEY KAHNE: You know, I got a new Dodge Ram this year and it has Sirius in it. I listen to I think it's 128. I was just heading in listening to the morning drive the other morning driving into the shop. I think three of the four guys said Kahne is out, he won't make it. Definitely, Why me? We always run good at Atlanta and Richmond. We run pretty good here.
You just look back at Bristol. We had a bad race. You take that one out, we've been as consistent as any of these other cars in that area for the last few months. I just feel like from sixth to 14th it's close and any one of us can miss it next week.
Yeah, I kind of listen to that and laugh and think I'm going to prove these guys wrong.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations to both of you. We wish you a lot of luck at Richmond.
RICHARD PETTY: Thank you.
KASEY KAHNE: Thank you.
End of FastScripts