BRISTOL, Tenn. Kasey Kahne became the third driver in three races to occupy the 10th position in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series standings with his fifth-place finish last Sunday at the Michigan International Speedway.
As the 10th-place driver, he has the final qualifying spot he's six points ahead of his Evernham Motorsports teammate Jeremy Mayfield for the Chase for the Championship, a battle among the top-10 drivers after 26 races for the series championship.
Kahne, a rookie, talked about his season and what it will take to stay in the top 10 in the next three races, including Saturday night's Sharpie 500 at the Bristol Motor Speedway.
Question: Do you feel relief after getting into the top 10?
Kahne: Not really, I mean there was a little bit, but I was really just happy to get through that race and finish in the top five. It was a long weekend for everybody, and it was good to get out of there with a good top-five finish. To know we're in the top 10 now is really good. We've been working on it for the last few months, and we're finally up there, so we've got to find a way to stay up there.
Question: Is there more pressure getting into the top 10 or staying there?
Kahne: I don't know yet. I start feeling it more toward the end of the week, and I know last week I felt a lot of pressure, so I think getting in was a pretty big deal. And now, staying in will probably be about the same.
Question: What's it like to be on the bubble?
Kahne: We're getting right down to getting in the top 10, and then we'll start right into the top 10 or if we're going for 11th. It's going to be like that the rest of the year. It's going to be fun, but it's definitely going to be a lot riding on every race. The teams really need to be focused and the drivers and everybody. There's going to be a lot riding on it, but it's going to be a lot of fun.
Question: With the competition being so tough for the top-10 spots, do any races from the first part of the season come back to haunt you?
Kahne: I'm not sure how many we lost there (Dover) and then a week or two after that, two races I wish we could if that hadn't happened we'd have another 150 to 200 points on our side. That's part of it. That's just part of racing, the ups and downs, and you really can't control that stuff. I don't really think back at any of that. I think back on it every once in awhile and think, 'I wish we could have won a race,' but when it comes to points that's just the way it turned out, and that's why we're where we're at right now.
Question: You've been second four times this year. Is that starting to bother you?
Kahne: Right now it doesn't. That's where we finished, and at the time they were great finishes and still are great finishes. That's what we got. I don't look at it as we'd be better in points now if we could have won those races. We could have won. We didn't, and that's just the way it was.
Question: Do you deserve to be in the Top 10?
Kahne: Right now we're back in the top 10, and I think we deserve to be there. If we can't stay there, then no, we don't deserve to be there. I definitely think we deserve to be there right now. We're going to do all we can to finish ninth, eighth, maybe even as good as that. We'll just have to see what happens and where the points take us.
Question: Have you learned anything from being so close and not winning?
Kahne: I've learned how hard it is to win one of these races and how hard it is to run up front every week, trying to learn a way to win a race. It's putting the entire race together and then that final pit stop and go in the right direction there, putting those last 30 laps together. It's not easy at all to win these races. It takes a lot of things to go right and to go your way.
Question: What do you need to do to remain in the Top 10 in the next three races?
Kahne: I think we've got to finish all three of these races and finish them up toward the front. At Richmond and Bristol anything could happen at those tracks, California, too. I think it's going to come down to Richmond to see who those top 10 are and just what will happen I don't know. It's going to be pretty exciting.
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