When Evernham Motorsports announced its 2004 Nextel Cup line-up, NASCAR Busch Series standout Kasey Kahne found himself included as the team's intended successor to series veteran Bill Elliott behind the wheel of the #9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge.

Jeremy Mayfield will continue as driver of the sister #19 car, as had been confirmed before the end of the 2003 campaign, but the greatest attention fell on the Kahne/Elliott partnership, which will run concurrently at some events as Elliott phases himself out of NASCAR competition. Kahne gives his take on his big career break...

Q:
What is your contract status with Ford?

Kasey Kahne:
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.

Q:
Is there big pressure on you now that you're climbing into the #9 car?

KK:
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 a 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.

Q:
Will you run a full Busch season?

KK:
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.

Q:
When did your interest shift to stock cars?

KK:
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 [Stewart] 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.

Q:
Do you feel pressure taking over from Bill Elliott?

KK:
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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