Casey Kahne at Bristol   Photo by:Jeff Kluss/SIT 


BRISTOL AVENGER TEST? “Just to learn about the car getting ready for the race at Bristol and learn where we stack up against the other teams, what your cars look like compared to their cars and make sure we had no issues with the front suspension geometry because it is different or ground clearance because that is dictated to you now. Just understanding how the car would work being built limited suspension travel versus what we’re used to running and then having a good luck at the NASCAR inspection process.” 

HOW DID THE TEAMS PERFORM YESTERDAY? “Kasey called me first thing this morning and I spoke to Dr. Eric Warren a few times yesterday. They were pretty happy with the 9 car. The 10 and 19 searched around trying different things. When we take three cars testing we go in three different directions. Those cars came back to a little bit closer on what we had decided on. I guess they got better in the afternoon. Elliott and Scott became happier with their cars. At a test it’s not really about how fast you can go all the time as much as it is proving out things. Each team goes there with a different list of information they have to gather to come back with.” 

DOES IT MATTER IF A CREW CHIEF OR TEAM DIRECTOR GETS SUSPENDED? “I think the technology and the strength of the driver has something to do with it and the depth of the team. I think certain teams can overcome it and other teams struggle a little bit with it. Our No. 9 team seemed to overcome it, had a little bit more depth, and we struggled a little bit with the 10 and 19. Again, that takes a little more time. I think it really depends on the depth of the team. With our organization it seems to have gone both ways with us. They got Kasey happy with his car on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and we couldn’t get Scott or Elliott happy with theirs. I’ll take responsibility for that because I was working on the 19 car. Again, I think it’s up to the team. When you take a key player out of a team in any sport it’s got to affect it somewhat.” 

WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE COT PHASED IN COMPLETELY IN 2008? “It really depends on what happens in the 16 races this year, but if we don’t have a lot of problems then certainly because it’s very expensive and very time consuming to try to do two programs at the same time. If everything goes well this year, we’ll have chances to be on the short tracks and road courses and superspeedways. If we get through all those and there are no major issues I think it would be probably the best thing to switch over completely.” 

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH THE COT INSPECTION? “The inspection process because the tolerances are all held so tightly and the fact that they have about 14 templates that we can’t even have access to, and I think it’s like anything else. The first time you’ve got to go through it to get it figured out. Everybody was waiting to see what was going to happen and by the end of the day the guys were saying it pretty much drives like my other car, tight in the middle and loose in. That’s
Bristol. I think the inspection process is the same way. It’s new and it’s going to take time for NASCAR to get its system worked out. When you build something for the first time and send it through, even though you think you’ve got areas that are right, everybody does things a little differently. I think it’ll go faster and faster as time goes on. In theory everything they’re doing should be better. It’s just going to take some time to get it right.” 

WHAT WILL BE THE NEXT STEP FOR THE AVENGER? “Obviously we’re going to keep doing some testing. We’ll have to wait for the guys to get back and go over all the post-test data. That’s the big thing. You gather some data that it takes so much time to go through it. We’ll look at the top priorities and what the guys think. We’ll continue to make sure we can line up with NASCAR and say what’s the next chance we can get some of these cars through inspection? As of 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon, I don’t think any car had passed inspection. I don’t know if any of them got through today or not. I guess about 30 of them had gone through at that point and everything had been turned back. We’re going to work on what we’ve got to do to clean up our inspection process.” 

WILL TEAMS TEST A LOT AT NON-CUP TRACKS IN THE COMING WEEKS? “I think any time you’ve got something new you’re going to try to gain as much information as you can about it in the time you have. I’d say there’s going to be tons of testing at the

Kentuckys and Lakelands and Nashvilles and all the places we don’t run the Cup cars. The people that learn the idiosyncrasies of this car fastest are going to have an advantage soon, so I’m sure everyone is going to continue to test really hard on it.” 

WHAT ARE YOUR CONCERNS ABOUT FIXING THE AVENGER? “We probably won’t know about fixing the cars. The biggest issue right now is something that’s not going to be in your possession – the wing. If you knock a wing off how soon can you get a wing? Are all the decklids on the cars going to be the same or is NASCAR just going to hand you a decklid with a wing on it and you replace that? That might be the easiest. As far as the car count, it’s expensive. It’s going to be very expensive to have two programs going on. I don’t think it’s any secrets. The owners, including myself, have said there’s going to be a cost of between one and a half to two million dollars per team to swap over. All of a sudden you’re looking at a $5 million deficit and it can really hurt growth. Another thing we have to worry about is through the inspection process I think NASCAR is going to confiscate one or two of these things per week. If you’ve got two cars ready to go to Martinsville and you run good at Bristol or somewhere, NASCAR is going to take your car for a couple of days to look at it. We are concerned about getting a number of them built in time. I don’t know that there’s a shortage of pieces. Dodge has done a good job of getting us the pieces we need and NASCAR has got all the rules out. The biggest thing is the time. If you can put on 15 or 20 more people and can afford to do that, you can get it done. When you’re crashing cars at Daytona and
California and you’re trying to run well and things like that… With us we crashed two cars at Daytona and one at
California and you’ve got to try to fix those things. We’re also going through a change over on the nose of the car. Without going out and putting on another 20 or 25 people you don’t have time to get the things built. I think the teams that can afford to have a completely separate COT program and are doing that separately are the ones that have the advantage.” 

LOT DEVELOPING THE AVENGER? “The wind tunnel is important. We’re finding out the wind tunnel is probably not as accurate a tool as the technology has grown in the sport. When we had nothing to measure aero, the wind tunnel was a very good tool, but now as you’re seeing these cars change downforce and balance through pitch and the wheels turning and with the wing on them, a lot of what we do now is called straight line testing. You actually run the car down a long straightaway and take measurements with load sensors and air pressure and things like that to help you understand the car a little bit better and to see if the computational fluid dynamics modeling part of the computer, I think at some point down the road, is going to play a bigger role in car development than the wind tunnel. We’re finding the wind tunnel is a good tool, but you almost want to compare it with a tape measure versus a dial indicator in some instances, but we’re finding out sometimes the wind tunnel doesn’t give us accurate information of what we see on the racetrack.” 

ARE YOU CONCERNED WITH TEAMS GETTING NAILED PRETTY HARD WHILE THEY’RE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT THESE CARS? “I think they’re going to confiscate some cars period, not for infractions, just to study them. I think they’re going to take them back to the tech center and measure them and things like that post race. As far as losing cars in inspection and crew chiefs and fines and things like that, I’m very concerned about it. Hopefully with the car of tomorrow they can clear up a lot of gray areas in the rule book and simply make them black and white. NASCAR for so long has almost rewarded people for playing in that gray area and almost called them a genius when they invented a shock deal or something like that and get away from it. They almost encouraged playing in the gray area, and now all of a sudden in a gray area we saw the biggest fines and biggest penalties in NASCAR history. I think out of 230 penalties,
Kenny Francis’ fine for some tape ties the third biggest fine in NASCAR history. I’m very concerned about it. As I said in Daytona I’m very concerned, but unfortunately in this sport you have to look for an advantage in those gray areas but now you don’t know how far to go.” 

HOW DOES IT AFFECT THE TEAM WHEN A KEY PLAYER IS MISSING? “It goes back to how long the team’s been together and what kind of depth it has. The biggest thing that I see is the confidence. It’s not the technical part of getting the car right. It’s the confidence that the team has when key members are missing and the communication. It takes a little bit of time to learn because people communicate a little differently to one another. Everybody’s thought processes are a little different. When you build a team all you’re really doing is getting everybody aligned with their through process. When you disrupt that or with a new team when the thought process isn’t as perfectly aligned as a veteran team,  when it disrupts that it takes more time to get settled down. Again, I think clearly that’s what happened to the 19 this week. We just didn’t communicate and get the car driving like Elliott wanted it to in time. If we had another couple of hours could we have done it? Maybe, but we couldn’t do it in the time we were allotted because we just weren’t communicating good enough.” 

ARE YOU USING ROBOTS YET? “We haven’t started it yet because the machinery hasn’t been delivered. It has been ordered. All the parts and pictures are being laid out. We hope to have that thing full swing and producing suspension parts and components in the June timeframe. We’re hoping that frees up about three people to do other things. You’re still going to have to have people to set up and move things around so it’s not going to free up a bunch of people, but we’re hoping it’ll free up at least three people most of the day. We’re starting with one cell and we could move to as many as three or four if the first one is successful.” 

FINAL COMMENTS “We’re looking forward to getting to
Las Vegas and
Atlanta and having our Dodge Dealers cars run good. We didn’t have a productive week at
California and we’ve got to focus on some good, solid finishes to get those cars built up and solidly in the top 35 so we can concentrate on racing.”