NASCAR Media Conference
January 29, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We've got Kasey Kahne here, driver of the Budweiser Dodge.
I think you're the track record holder here. New car for this test. Talk about how the test has gone so far, what you're expecting for the race in a few weeks.
KASEY KAHNE: So far it's been pretty good. This is the first time that we've tested this type of a track with all the other cars around for this season. It's good to be here. Vegas is a great place to test, good place to stick around and try to learn some things.
So I feel like we made some pretty good gains so far. I'm looking forward to it. The car, the more you drive it, the more you work with it, the better you make it feel, kind of the more you like it. I'm starting to like this car as far as the way it handles, and it's getting closer to the car we used to have at this place.
We just have to keep working, keep fine tuning, and hopefully it will make things good.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kasey.
Q. You were just saying once you test the car a little bit more you're really going to like it. What do you think is going to be the most enjoyable feature about having the Car of Tomorrow?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, the thing that's been tough is we had a car that handled really well and did things a certain way. We went to the Car of Tomorrow and it was like taking a step back. So on these tracks, it's the same way. It handles so much different, especially when you're off. The more you work with it, the better you get it to do the things that it needs to do to go around the track right, the funner it gets to drive.
I think mainly it's just a matter of time. The more you work with the car, the better it gets. I'm starting to like it. I mean, I didn't care for it much last year at times. I thought we were pretty far off. Right now we seem like we're kind of in the ballpark. Keep working, we'll be, you know, where we need to be.
Q. Do you find it has more power, less power, better handling?
KASEY KAHNE: The car itself I would say is similar in power. I mean, all that feels the same. The way it handles, you know, it's a little bit bigger car. You can tell that when you're driving it. We haven't got around cars yet on a track like this to where you're racing, so that will be a big -- something that will be a lot different when we come here or to California the week before we race here.
That's where we'll learn how it is behind cars. That's where the other car struggled pretty bad. Hopefully this one will be better. I think that was the goal, to make this handle better in traffic so there's more passing.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I'm expecting -- after the test, I mean, the first week I think guys struggled a little bit in the draft. When I got down there the second week, our car was pretty decent just from the start from things that Elliott had learned with theirs, so that was good for us.
As far as the 500, I think every year it seems like everybody takes it easy for a while. You want to be there at the end. You want to have a shot late in the race. So I think you'll see, you know, on restarts it will be bunch up, and then it will get single file around the bottom, and by halfway through the race it's going to be right around the wall like it does.
That gets pretty boring at times. But when people want to race, when everybody decides, Let's go, it's going to be a pretty good race. I think it will be pretty exciting.
The car itself handles -- my car handled well there, so I think did a lot of people's. They bounce more. When you're watching them, it feels like -- you watch someone else, it doesn't feel like they're handles that well, what their cars look like. But when you're actually in them, mine seemed pretty decent.
I think it's going to be fun. I'm looking forward to Daytona. I think there's cars that were definitely faster than others at the test. I think when we go back for the race, things will be equalled out some and we'll have a shot, as good a shot as anyone.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: I think things are definitely different this year with Evernham as far as the structure and the plan that's set there to make the cars right, to make them handle for a while, not just for a week. We figure something out, we can keep it and make it better as time goes on.
Is this test going better than last year's? Last year our test went pretty good until I blew a right front tire and crashed my car that I had won all the races with. That was kind of the year at that point. We were fast at this test last year. I think we're top 10 or so, top 15 in speeds today and yesterday at the right times.
I think it's going good. I think we have a lot to learn still. But we've made gains. I feel like when we come back for the race we'll be pretty strong. But I always feel pretty good about everything. Even last year when we were struggling, going into every Sunday, I thought, Hey, we can run good today. We can get things figured out and go fast.
A lot of times we didn't. I look -- I try to look at the bright side, try to make things right. I think they'll be good this year. It might take us a little while. I'm kind of hoping these kind of tests here and California next week or later this week is going to be really good for us.
Q. Yesterday in the AM session, the entire spread on 37 cars was 6/10ths of a second. In the afternoon, 44 cars was 1 1/4 seconds. Is that what you might have anticipated? Are those times different than you might have thought?
KASEY KAHNE: I thought at times yesterday it looked like the speeds were very close. Everybody was pretty similar and pretty close. I thought of Bristol, how close Bristol speeds are in practice and qualifying. It seems like this is going to be similar. I think there's going to be a lot of cars that are very similar.
Once it goes to race time that's all going to change. But as far as practice and qualifying, speeds with the Car of Tomorrow will be closer than maybe last year.
Q. I don't think I remember 6/10ths of a second here as being the entire spread on a practice session. I thought it was amazing.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I thought -- that's kind of why I thought of Bristol. Bristol is maybe 3/10ths for 40 cars or 30 cars. But that's a short track and that's much different than what we have here. That place is close. You can make one little mistake and go from first to 20th in qualifying.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: I think it's too early to tell on a lot of that stuff, you know, how it's going to all work out and things. I feel pretty good about it. I've been definitely happy to have Budweiser colors, be working with those people. It's been a lot of fun.
As far as I've seen at a few bars and a few places it's starting to be more Kasey Kahne Budweiser stuff. I haven't seen as much Dale, Jr. That's definitely a big thing. That's a lot different than what I can remember 'cause all I can ever remember is seeing, you know, Jr. or some of the other guys. So, yeah, that's a big change.
I think it's going to be really good. I think performance is going to be everything. If we perform well it's going to be big and we're going to have a lot of fun with Bud.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: I don't have one but I've seen a few of them. I think Gillette Evernham got a bunch, but I don't need those.
Q. Next month is coming up on the 50th anniversary of the Daytona 500. I don't know if you're a history buff at all about the history of your sport, but is there any way for you to summarize what the history of that race, Daytona International Speedway, has meant to racing in general?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, truthfully, I've never been a lot into history. I just haven't been. But as far as racing goes, I think everyone knows, including myself, how big Daytona is, from when it started to where it's at now is so much different. It's grown so much.
Racing is so huge at Daytona. I think of things, when I was growing up watching the 500, every single Daytona 500, you know, I would sit there and watch it with my dad. If we had people over, we'd make breakfast, all that. For us, it was the prerace or whatever would come on about 8:00 in the morning and we would watch it.
I just think it's awesome to be part of the 50th anniversary. The first time I went through the tunnel to Daytona, you know, you see the facility, the track, the bank, you can remember so many races that you've seen on TV, so much stuff that's went on. It's neat. It's exciting. It's a great feeling to be part of that.
I'm looking forward to it. I would love to have a shot to win the 50th anniversary race. I'm hoping that we do. I think we're going to.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think they're trying things, we're trying things. I got in Patrick's car. I just have driven these cars more than Patrick so I have a different way of explaining things compared to what he does. It was good for me to feel what it felt like, and also for his team to kind of listen to me explain it and talk to Patrick about it.
It wasn't what I would have wanted, but there was parts -- there were certain things his car was doing that were really good, and then there were other things that I didn't care for as much.
We talked about that stuff. They're making changes now. I think they'll be faster after that. I didn't go any faster than Patrick did. We ran about the same speed in the car. They just need to keep working on it and get him a better platform, better setup and they'll go faster.
It's hard to figure that stuff out. It's hard to know -- to get into the sport and know, okay, what's a good car, what's a bad car? That feels pretty good. Is that really pretty good or is it not pretty good? It's difficult.
When I get struggling, even now with experience, I feel like, Man, maybe this is good. Maybe I'm not driving it right. Maybe I need to change this and try different things. I think it's good, especially when you're getting started in the series, to be able to have someone jump in and kind of get their input on it all.
Q. (No microphone.)
KASEY KAHNE: Well, it's all kind of up to each driver as far as what you want, what you don't want. I like the way it entered. It was really fast. It entered, got to the white line really fast compared to my car, which was good.
Other than that, it pushed too much. It didn't turn as well. I didn't care about that as much. That was the main stuff.
Q. How good are you at reading the data on the computers? How interested are you in that? How much do you look at that?
KASEY KAHNE: I'm interested in it. I mean, you can learn a lot from it. I'm best when there's an engineer there showing me and talking to me and telling me exactly what I'm looking at.
I understand it all. I've done it for five years now probably so I understand what you're looking at. But as far as -- there's so much you can look at there. It's nice to have someone there explaining it to you and kind of showing you what's going on. You can put things together by looking at that.
But the engineers are really smart and they do a really nice job explaining certain things.
Q. Are you able to then put your seat of the pants along with what you learn when you're standing there with the engineer and put it together in one bit of information in your head?
KASEY KAHNE: Certain things you can, certain things you can't. As far as throttle and braking, steering, travel, you can see when your car is bottoming out and things. You can definitely kind of think about that, put it together.
But, you know, a lot of the forces, heat and things that they show you, too, is stuff, that's just more for them, working on changing that stuff, making that better.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Kasey, for coming in.
KASEY KAHNE: Thank you.
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