NASCAR Media Conference
October 13, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR CAM Video teleconference. This week we are in advance of Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina, and that's going to be the fifth race, the halfway point, in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Our guest today, he's at the Nascar Research and Development Center in Concord, right down the road from the Speedway, that's Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge, and Kasey is 11th in the Chase standings coming into this weekend. Saturday night's event would seem a good opportunity for Kasey to move up. He's had a lot of past success at Lowe's: 2006, won both of the season's points races, and 2008, you'll recall he swept the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and then the Coca-Cola 600 on back to back weekends. Great month of May. We have a question from a pretty good fan of yours, Jessica in New Jersey, we got it from our Twitter account and Jessica wants to know: How does the pressure of a team being in the Chase affect both your racing as far as preparation going into the event and what transpires on the track. What does the pressure of the Chase do?
KASEY KAHNE: The two months leading into the Chase, the pressure, the points are so close from fifth to 15th this year, that pressure was intense and that's where the team was bringing great race cars. I couldn't make any mistakes and we had to be really on top of our game to make the Chase and we did that and now being in the Chase it's the same thing. So really we have been doing that for a while now, and you know, just trying to get every point we can, the best finish as possible, and I think the final practice leading into each race is really critical for the following day.
Q. Wondering if you think maybe NASCAR should maybe mix up the schedule of the Chase itself, it's kind of like the equivalent of maybe having the Super Bowl in the same city every single year. What are your thoughts on that?
KASEY KAHNE: I think some of the tracks we go to right now are really good for myself and our whole Budweiser team. They are also good for Jimmie Johnson and good for a lot of drivers. I had no problems with the way it is now, but to switch it up and things, I don't know how that would work out. I think the way it is now, it's pretty good, and you could switch it up but that would change so many races throughout the rest of the season, too, to get the scheduling right. I think it would be kind of a tough deal.
Q. Seeing things this week on television, a lot of people kind of already conceded this whole thing to Jimmie Johnson. I'm just curious, from your perspective I can think of at least two tracks that would seem like huge wildcards, Talladega and Martinsville, things like that. How do you handle that? How do you reconcile all this? What do you see shaking out, or is a little early to give anything away yet?
KASEY KAHNE: I'd say it's definitely too early because the points are still too close. I mean, Jimmie is doing the same things he does every year, and that's really dominate the Chase. He's right there. He's in a great position. Mark Martin has done an awesome job, Juan Pablo has done a great job, and I would say Jeff Gordon has been really quick, too. Those between four, to me they have been the best four, and everybody after that has kind of had luck if they are close or bad luck or whatever it may be. But those top four are still close and anything can happen. Especially if something happens to Jimmie, it will be tough for him to catch backup because of how strong Mark and Montoya and them guys are.
Q. Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we all say things that we shouldn't say. Do you still stand by your statement that NASCAR threw a phantom caution to make the race more entertaining?
KASEY KAHNE: I never said phantom. I think other people may have said that. But I was frustrated. We had a Budweiser Dodge. We made adjustments to get it to where it was. We were a 25th place car at the start of the race and we figured out how to get in the top six, top five. Kurt Busch made a mistake and got me in Biffle, and then I was in another wreck right after that.
So I was frustrated. I was disappointed and kind of what had happened to us in the Chase, we have had top ten cars in each race and had a few different problems now that we couldn't do anything about. I said that, and yeah, I didn't see anything on the track. My eyes are wide open, so at the time I was definitely frustrated. But we also need exciting races and we need exciting finishes, and a track like that, the tire we are racing on there, there's things that make that race, to me, pretty boring, and we needed a caution there at the end to make it exciting and I guess that's what the fans got.
Q. Would you ever consider going and racing the Indy 500 if the circumstances were right?
KASEY KAHNE: I think I definitely would. You know, in the past, growing up, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I wanted to race cars and when I kind of was winning in the USAC and Sprint car levels, I had somewhat of an opportunity to go IndyCar or NASCAR, and NASCAR's what worked out and it's been an awesome, great time for me.
But if there were ever an opportunity with a good team that I could do the right amount of testing and be able to make that race and the Coca-Cola 600, I don't know why I wouldn't. I think it would be a huge, it's a really difficult race to be a part of and to try to do that whole month of May with the NASCAR schedule, I think that would be a huge challenge and I would love to be part of it if it ever could work.
Q. Just wanted to get your thoughts on the news that NASCAR came out with last week about more consistent times, how do you feel about that?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, the only thing I see there, in the past I've always kind of wondered what time we were starting and you never really know because it changes so much. So as a driver, I've always wondered. But really as a driver, it doesn't matter, you know, what time it starts.
To me it's whatever makes the most sense for NASCAR, for Sprint, for the show, and when it's the best time for the fans. I think having the designated time, the majority really helps out because you know what time the race is starting. Easier to maybe plan your schedule for that day or if you want to watch half the race or the whole race, it's easier on you. So I really think they did a good job by doing that one o'clock start.
Q. You mentioned points going into the Chase and now and the Chase being tight and such, did you expect a level of competition in the Chase this year to be so tight with the Chase contenders dominating, the Top-10 finishes and you know you can finish with a Top-10 and still not really move up very much, because everybody else is doing it. Did you expect that and why do you think that is?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I really did expect that, and that's kind of how it was before the Chase started the last four races leading into the Chase. I expected that's how the whole Chase would be ran. So, yeah, it just makes it tough. It makes for as of right now, for no mistake, but going into the Chase, you have no idea if everybody is going to have a problem or nobody is. It doesn't mean anything at that point in time. It really doesn't either because there's still seven races to go and anything can happen. So you know, we'll just have to see what happens, but I knew it would be close for the first half of the Chase and I imagine it will the last half, too.
Q. Let's face it, you had a really tough day in California with the problems, the wreck. What do you do to stay focused to get back on the track for the next race, or, you know, what would you even tell, there's a lot of young guys trying to get into NASCAR. My question to you is: What advice can you give them to keep calm, stay positive, to when they have a problem with a blown tire or even a wreck?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think the biggest thing for me is how much I love to race and how much I love to drive cars. We have Charlotte coming up, we have Texas and we have some tracks that we have ran really well at in the past. So it's pretty easy for me to get over that and knowing that I have these next races coming up, we still have opportunities to win. We probably don't have an opportunity to win a Sprint Cup, but we definitely have opportunities to win, and so I'm excited about that.
I'm looking forward to having a great team.
And as a kid, I think it's the same thing. You know, you just look forward to each week, you look forward to each opportunity to get to, whether it's learning about a race car, learning about driving a race car or whatever it may be and just keep trying to make yourself better. You can always look forward to that kind of stuff, you never know where it will take you and it's good to have that. It's good to have things to look forward to.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Talladega coming up. It's been report that had NASCAR is going to reduce very slightly the size in the hole in the restrictor plates there, trying to take 12 to 15 horsepower away, in an effort to presumably make it safer. Do you think that's going to have much of an effect, and/or do you think that it might just serve to just bunch the field up even more?
KASEY KAHNE: I don't know. I don't think it will bunch it up a lot more. I think it will be similar. I think it will slow it down a little bit would be what I would think. I'm not real sure. A lot of times we go to a race, Daytona or Talladega, or the teams have a chance to work on the cars and the engines, and they do that halfway through the weekend; the Daytona 500, they will do it and take a little bit of speed away because we are running too fast. You know, I don't think it will change the field or the racing action at all. It may just slow the speed down a little bit.
Q. You've had some problems with Ford in the past and we all are aware of the problems. How are you going to deal with that and have you had any discussions yet with anyone for it?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, yeah, things that happened in the past, I'm glad that we can put things behind us and get over stuff like that. So you know, I know there's a new group there that's very excited to have Richard Petty Motorsports and Ford cars. So if that happens, then I look forward to it. I look forward to running Yates engines and the power that they have put out, and just trying to do the best job I can for Ford. It's been neat to race for Dodge. We have run some big races and really enjoy what we have done with Dodge in the past. If that ends, I go where the team goes and that will be to Ford maybe.
Q. Have you talked to anybody there yet?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, they have talked to me a few times, some of the guys that go to the racetrack, some of the Ford racing guys, and they seem really excited and want to do whatever it takes to get our No. 9 car winning races on that side, as well.
Q. Much has been made lately of drivers speeding on pit road. Can you run down for the fans exactly how you guys before the race with the pace car calibrate that speed?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, the biggest thing is the pit car goes five miles an hour slower than the maximum speed you can go. So you judge off of that. It goes back to the team again to the crew chief, the engineer. They do the math on exactly what our RPM can be once we get the pit cars's RPM on the pace lap. At that point they give you that RPM, and you just watch. I just watch, I just have a little pack that I watch. Other people maybe have green lights that say you're go good, red lights that say you're going too fast, something like that. I just watch the little pack, and if I go over it, I know I've got to slow down or I'm going to get caught speeding. You know, it's a fine line, and you want to get all you can possibly get on pit stops. You want to be right there but you definitely don't want to go over, because that can really hurt your day.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you and thanks to Kasey. Best of luck at Lowe's Motor Speedway, you've had a lot of success there in the past and hopefully you'll be able to do it again. Kasey Kahne.
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