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News and Results | Point Standings | 2003 Schedule | 2003 Teams | 2002 Schedule and Results

 

Dodge This Teleconference: Evernham Motorsports Announcement

Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003 - Ray Evernham, Bill Elliott and Kasey Kahne held a media teleconference immediately following the New York Press Conference, in which it was announced that Elliott would run a reduced schedule in 2004 and Kasey Kahne was named as driver of the No. 9 Dodge Intrepid.

Bill Elliott
BILL ELLIOTT (Evernham Motorsports Dodge)

WHAT WAS ANNOUNCED IN NEW YORK TODAY? "I plan to cut back and not run a full schedule next season, running 12-15 races. We're still looking at our sponsorship package and what we're going to do as far as the total number of events we're going to run next year. Fifteen will probably be our key number depending on how things come together. I'm looking forward to it. Kasey Kahne will be the driver of the 9 car, and I will be kinda like the driver coach for him. As good as he's been he probably won't need much help, but still, if I can contribute to any part of that I'll definitely be 100 percent. I feel like Ray has built a great organization. Right now we're trying to help grow that organization and I feel like this will be what we need to do.

"Right now when I run I'll run the 9. Kasey will run the 9 when I'm not racing. I know I'll run the Bud Shootout. I probably won't run the 500. Vegas will be our first real event. We've got a plan, but we're still trying to put it all together.

IS THIS THE FIRST STEP TOWARD GETTING OUT OF THE CAR? "I think that's going to be several years down the road, eventually yes. The way I look at it, I might get in a Busch car next year. I might run a truck some next year. I'm going to run the dirt car some next year. I'm going to run these Cup cars some next year. I'm going to do quite a bit of R&D work for Ray, developing the new chassis for him. I don't foresee myself slowing down a lot other than not just having the hectic schedule of running week in and week out as far as the Cup schedule is concerned.

"We had a lot of fun the last third of the season. If we could have kept everything the same it would have probably been OK to run another full season, but realistically, I'm at a point in my life, I'm getting close to 50, and I need to slow down. I need to be able to start doing some of the things my family and Bill Elliott needs to do and this is a perfect place that I help Ray Evernham and help the new generation drivers, help look for drivers, help Ray develop his new R&D and develop his new cars, for me to take care of the fans and have some fan events over the next several years, some different kind of deals. For me, it's a great deal. I don't know that I could totally walk away, but for me this kind of leads toward a new era of what goes on in this sport. I've been in it since the mid 70s, and I've seen a lot of things happen over the last 30 years.

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP KASEY? "I think the main thing is helping him get through the learning curve. You see a lot of guys come from the Busch side to the Cup side and it's a whole different deal. He may fall into it and may need no help. If I can just knock a few of the rough edges off now and then and help him test and maybe suggest things. I don't know what it could be at this point in time, but I still like that's an area where I can help a lot. Maybe I can go and help him troubleshoot or if he's having a little bit of problems here and there, maybe I could step in the car and suggest some things here and there. Maybe he can teach me some things. I've had that happen also."

WHAT WAS BEHIND DECISION NOT TO RUN DAYTONA 500? "I don't want to take their focus away from the 500. All this stuff came together. I might not run it this year and I might run it next year, I'm talking about 2005. The way everything fell together, we didn't get everything in place like we wanted to. We've got a good outline, but yet the main key that I don't want to do, I don't want to take Ray's focus off the 500 with Kasey and Jeremy. I would like to go in and run the Bud Shootout because I'm qualified for it and Kasey's not. Maybe I can help them get a jump start on the 500. Who knows? If things work out, you might end up running it or not. Right now, we don't know."

WHAT CAN YOU SAY TO YOUR FANS WHO DON'T WANT YOU OUT OF THE CAR? "The way I look at it, there's got to be a time when you've got to step back. Let's say for example you started the season and got hurt and couldn't run anymore. You've seen that so much in the past. We don't live forever. We don't drive forever. We don't do a lot of things forever. It would be nice to do it, but I feel like this is an opportunity for the fans where I can still run some events. I may run the Busch car somewhere, I may run the dirt car, I may run the truck. This might give me an opportunity to be somewhere where that fan would not (normally) get to see me. We'll probably do some specialty fan events that's a little different from what's been done in the past. To me, it's an era where I won't be there every week, but I'm still going to have a presence. I'll still run some, and I think it's a good opportunity."

HOW GOOD IS KASEY? CAN HE BE THE NEXT RYAN NEWMAN OR JIMMIE JOHNSON? "I don't see why not. He ended up winning his Busch race at Homestead. It seems like he's got a pretty good handle on what he wants. If Ray and all of us find out exactly what he needs quick enough, I don't see why not. Ray's got some great equipment right now. We'll get the chemistry of the driver and the team together as quick as we can, and I think that's going to be a key part."

WHAT ARE THE SPECIALTY EVENTS FOR THE FANS? "We're thinking about doing some large events at some races over the next several years to get the fans involved. We'll be more specific. We've got an outline of what we're going to do, but we'll give you more specifics probably in early January."

WHAT TRACKS ARE YOU THINKING ABOUT FOR YOUR RACES? "I'll probably go to all the races at the first of the year (when not racing) and probably miss a few of them toward the end of the year. The races I'd love to run would be the Michigans, California, maybe Pocono, Indy and go from there. We've got to put a lot of things in place yet."

WOULD YOU SPOT FOR KASEY? "Whatever it takes."

Ray Evernham
RAY EVERNHAM (Owner Evernham Motorsports)

WHAT DOES THE EVERNHAM LINEUP LOOK LIKE FOR 2004? "Kasey (Kahne) is going to run all the races, and right now we're working that stuff out. A lot of it still is undone. Since it's not a retirement tour (for Bill Elliott), we haven't worked out all the car number stuff yet. We're still looking for partners to come on board with us, so they would certainly have some input on the number. Bill is going to run 10-15 races. On the day Bill Elliott decides it's going to be his last race, he will drive the No. 9."

WHAT IS KASEY'S CONTRACT STATUS WITH FORD? "From the legal side, his attorneys and things I know, there is no contract. The contract was terminated. Kasey honored all his agreements with Ford. He did it in a gentlemanly manner, lots of correspondence over the last couple of months, so there is no contract with Ford."

WHAT DID YOU SEE IN KASEY? "I'm a big open wheel fan, and I've known of Kasey's career for three or four years driving the sprints and midgets at a young age. His success there in USAC was very much along the same lines as Gordon, Stewart and Newman if you look at his record. He's a very committed young man. He's very mature for his age. He's very committed to being a champion racecar driver. I believe moreso than the talent he's got the commitment. In this sport, if you're going to make big gains you've got to make big commitment, and at 23 years old, I believe he's ready to do that. He's a good kid. He knows an awful lot about a racecar."

HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT FOR BILL TO GO PART-TIME? "We actually came to this agreement before things started turning around. We knew at some point we were going to have to do something. I think, believe it or not, some of the pressure being off and being able to focus on what we were doing for the future might have helped things turn around. At the same time, a lot of things got in place. Our motor program made gains, our aero program, some of the simulation of software that we were working on we got finished and the team started working together as a group knowing that we were going to be going through some changes in 2004. I think we can continue that momentum. Certainly Kasey has got a learning curve, but I believe Jeremy is going to step up and be a good veteran on the team and Bill is always going to be right there to help both of those guys. I believe the momentum will continue, and a year from now we'll be further ahead than we were."

WHAT ARE SOME OF KASEY'S QUALITIES ON THE TRACK THAT YOU LIKE? "He thinks ahead, looks ahead, anticipates his moves. He stays really calm on the radio and gives really great information about the car. That's what you need in a driver if you're going to win races."

DID BILL JUST COME TO YOU AND ASK WHAT YOU WANTED TO DO? "Actually it was a conversation that took place at Michigan. He just said, 'I just don't know that I can do this on a full-time basis anymore and we need to start thinking about some options.' All along he told me he'd never leave me high and dry. We had to talk about a lot of different scenarios. We both said if it's going to happen later anyway, let's just go ahead and make it happen sooner and get a headstart on it. I wanted to respect his wishes whatever they were. I would love to have Bill Elliott driving for me forever, but he's going to remain with me driving on a part-time basis and we're going to be doing some things together. Really, it's the best of all worlds to move our Dodge Dealers team forward."

IS THIS THE TURNING POINT FOR EVERNHAM RACING? "I don't know if it's the turning point. It's definitely another level to get to. It probably happened a year or two before we wanted it to happen, but it was eventually going to happen. I think this is another one of those strong blocks in a foundation that will make us better in the future."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON BILL NOT RUNNING DAYTONA 500? "I think our cars are going to be prepared good. Bill is going to help prepare our cars, but you've got to remember that Jeremy Mayfield has finished in the top five in the Daytona 500 several times and as high as second. I would still say we've got a pretty good chance at winning it."

DISCUSS YOUR THREE TEAMS FOR 2004 "There will be a third car at several races. The 9 and 19 will run all the races. Whatever races we get set for Bill there will be a third car. That number of races will be determined by sponsorship. Bill will run the Budweiser Shootout in car No. 9 and we will run Las Vegas with the new team. Evernham Motorsports is basically going to two and a half teams. Right now we're talking with several different partners. It could possibly be a Dodge car (Dodge Dealers sponsorship) for some of the races, but we would like to find a partner that would be interested in a part-time program for the next two or three years."

DID HAVING A DRIVER WITH KASEY KAHNE'S POTENTIAL MAKE IT EASIER TO MAKE THE CHANGE? "It certainly did. You've got to have somebody to fill the seat that everybody is comfortable and happy with from your sponsors and partners down to your team members. We all agree that Kasey could be one of the next big stars of the sport."

Kasey Kahne
KASEY KAHNE (Evernham Motorsports Dodge)

WHAT IS YOUR CONTRACT STATUS WITH FORD? "I've completed all my obligations to Ford. I'm just really looking forward to being a part of Evernham Motorsports right now and being a part of working with Jeremy Mayfield and Bill Elliott. I've completed all my obligations. I'm just looking to the future now with what we've got set up."

IS THERE PRESSURE CLIMBING IN THE 9 CAR? "That's a big jump, especially for me. Bill is still going to run some races, just not as many. That seat opened up and for Ray Evernham to pick me as his driver and want to work with me is the biggest jump I could ever have in racing. I'm really excited to be able to make this jump and be part of Evernham Motorsports and Bill Elliott. I wouldn't have believed this would have happened half a year ago. Being in the Busch Series and doing the things we did with that team that hadn't had such a good year the year before and neither had I, I think that was pretty appealing to some people. I'm looking forward to racing the Busch car next year, too, and making the jump. That's really the biggest thing I keep thinking about. The next Nextel Cup race is going to be the Daytona 500. That's hard to believe. I really can't wait until we get there. It's something that's definitely tough to take in."

WILL YOU RUN A FULL BUSCH SEASON? "We're going to run it as much as we possibly can. Not counting weather and different things that can happen throughout the season, I think we can do every race. Milwaukee is going to be really tough with the Cup cars being at Sears Point. Other than that, we're going to put all we've got into it to run every race."

WHEN DID YOUR INTEREST SHIFT TO STOCK CARS? "Really, I've been interested in stock cars since I was little, since I started racing or even before that, since I went to races. I used to go to a local track back home and watch Bill Elliott on the weekends when he wasn't racing Winston Cup. He'd come out to Monroe and race. That was a big deal every year that me and my dad would go to. It's always something I've wanted to do. I never really expected that I'd be able to do it. Racing in open wheel, the direction that was going was to Indy cars. To finally be able to come and race down here now, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. Tony raced a lot of IRL cars before we went to Winston Cup. I'd still like to drive one of those cars some day if the opportunity ever came, but I'm happy where I'm at."

DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE TAKING OVER FOR BILL ELLIOTT? "There's a lot of pressure really. To think about what Bill has done as a driver, it's a huge step. That's the car they have open and that's the car they're going to put me in. I'm just going to do the best job I can in that car but it's definitely going to be a ton of pressure. I haven't been able to work with Bill these last couple of weeks. I've been able to work with Ray and my own Busch team. I went to a couple of dinners with Bill. I haven't talked to him much about racing. That hasn't been able to happen yet, but now it's going to be able to happen and I'm going to be able to get a lot of good advise from Bill Elliott. We're going to start testing before Christmas. I think Nashville is going to be the first test."

 

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