NASCAR Media Conference
April 1, 2008
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR teleconference in advance of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Samsung 500. We're very pleased today to have a great guest, Kasey Kahne. Kasey was the winner of the Samsung 500 in '06. Really having a nice start to this year.
Kasey, last year was a little bit disappointing for you and your team. You guys failed to make the Chase. But this year you come right out of the box in '08 really looking strong, rebounded quickly, looking a lot like the form you had of a couple years ago. What's been the difference?
KASEY KAHNE: Man, same team, same everything. I mean, I think the biggest thing has been kind of able to sit back and look at everything and think about it. You know, we had a little bit of time to regroup over the off-season. The cars, we're still running basically the same car we ran last year on the COT side. I just think maybe the setups are a little bit better. We've just been able to put more time into this car because of working with it for a longer period and also just working on this one car.
So I think that's the main thing: just putting more time into the car that we're racing and working on the setups and making the car go around the corner better.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll go to the media now for questions for today's teleconference guest, Kasey Kahne.
Q. I understand you're going to run a race at the Iowa Speedway. Can you talk about racing at that track, what that will be like, in your opinion?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, going to go out there on Sunday after the All-Star Race and do the whole deal. It should be a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to it just to, you know, do something a little different. I enjoy going out and racing my Sprint car, racing other races that aren't, you know, Sprint Cup races.
To do this, I've never been to Iowa, and I've heard a lot about it, being Rusty's track. I think they put a lot into it when they built it. I'm really looking forward to it. I think it's going to be a lot of fun.
Q. Are you still thinking about running the Sprint races, pre Nationals?
KASEY KAHNE: Not this year. Actually this year we're going to have two teams running the Nationals. I won't have a truck and trailer. The second team's going to use mine. We're going to start a second World of Outlaws team in 2009 is what our goals are and what we're trying to put together right now. So we're going to have two teams racing the Nationals. Not enough cars and trailers for me to do it, as well.
Q. There's a lot of anticipation here about the first COT race at TMS, especially after Atlanta and all that. I'm just wondering, what is your acceptance level of the COT? Were you on board with this thing from the beginning? And now are you in full acceptance of what the car is and what it needs to have?
KASEY KAHNE: You know, I think change sometimes is tough on people, on drivers, on teams. I liked what we had. I thought what we had was a really good racecar. So I wasn't totally on board at the start.
I think the longer that we've had this car, you realize there's more room, it's a little bit safer. If you get a good setup in it and it goes around the corner, it's actually a pretty fun car to drive. And it's probably going to be pretty similar to the old car by the end of it all.
The more I race it, the more we get better racecars and have good racecars, the more I actually like the COT. Kind of enjoy driving it. Think that it's, you know, cool that it's a little bit safer. That's a good thing, especially for the bigger guys in our sport.
Q. I'm working on a story outlining what all the drivers' foundations do. Can you tell me about your foundation, how you got involved with that.
KASEY KAHNE: We got involved, just myself and my sister. A few years ago we thought we definitely needed a foundation, definitely needed to do something that I enjoyed and that she enjoyed for kids. We made it to be for underprivileged kids and chronically ill children.
It's been really nice. I mean, I've really enjoyed having a foundation and trying to put money together and raise money, whether it's doing different events, doing different things with the NASCAR Foundation, some of the other drivers' and owners' foundations. We've been able to put some things together and kind of raise some money at the same time.
So I really like it. I'm glad that we did it. I hope that we just keep growing it and keep bringing in money.
Q. Do you get to have any hands-on experience with it? Get to spend any time with any of the kids?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah. I mean, we did a lot of things, a few things, in Charlotte for underprivileged kids. I think we probably took 30 or so kids to a Bobcats game one time, kind of kids that had done some things that they deserved to go, that they hadn't been to anything like that before.
We've also done some stuff, you know, over time going and meeting with some of these kids, putting a smile on their face, signing things, taking pictures, doing different things at events to kind of promote it and make a kid feel good and happy and excited.
Q. When you show up to a track like Texas this week for the first time with the new car, how important are practice sessions?
KASEY KAHNE: Practice will be really important. The way Atlanta went, practice is going to be very important. I think this car will be really good at Texas. I think it will be a great car there to race, to watch, to qualify, everything. And I think it will be a great car at Atlanta, also, as long as Goodyear puts a good racing tire on the car.
They're all about safety, so that's good. But we also have to be able to race on 'em and race side-by-side. The people building the tire have a ton to do with how competitive and how racy these cars are. So if they bring us a good tire that we can race on, Texas is gonna be a lot of fun. I'm definitely looking forward to it.
I'm going into it hoping that's the tire they bring and, you know, looking forward to it right now.
Q. When you get to a place like Texas with the new car, do you alter your routine on practice days? Do you do anything different than you would, say, if you were driving a car you're more familiar with?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of teams, on Friday they just do qualifying or 30 minutes of race runs, then put it in qualifying trim for an hour. You know, we've done both over the years. We usually start in race trim for a little bit and go to qualifying.
I think with this car you'll just spend a little bit more time actually working on a race setup and a little less time on a qualifying setup. You know, just gives you a little bit more time to try to figure out what exactly we'll need for Sunday to be competitive all race long.
Q. I was talking to Denny Hamlin yesterday. He said he had to have his crew chief help him to learn that he can't win all the time, to enjoy other things besides winning because a lot of you guys started so young, and if you're not winning... Have you had to learn that?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah. I mean, I think I've had to, and it's been really hard for me. You know, just because you get an attitude of -- at least I've had an attitude that I think I can win all the time. I think that's the only thing. If I don't win, I'm mad, there's something wrong. When you get I think to the level we're at now, it's so easy to have -- to not win races because there's so many great teams and great drivers and crew chiefs and owners and sponsors, I mean, there's so much going on. And the reason that each driver is racing in the Sprint Cup Series is because they've won tons of races in other series.
So, yeah, it makes it difficult. And I think Kenny Francis and definitely Mark McArdle this year has done a lot to just make sure that I know that we're just out there going for top 15s right now and trying to stay as close to the Chase as possible until we get our cars where we know we can win races.
I think we're getting closer, but we're still not there.
Q. I'm not sure how widely known this is, but it was announced a couple of weeks ago that Goodyear plans to bring to Texas the same tire they used in both Cup races last year with a slightly different construction for the side walls. Does that make any sense to you, given the problems in Atlanta? Does that give you any more confidence going there?
KASEY KAHNE: Man, I missed a little bit of what you said on the tire.
Q. It's basically going to be the same tire they used last year in Cup with the old car but with a slightly different I guess sidewall construction to accommodate the COT. I guess they're trying to make the best of both worlds there. Do you think that's a good compromise or you won't know till you get on the track?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, we probably won't know exactly. But I think that sounds a lot closer than what we had at Atlanta. I mean, I think Atlanta was extreme. We could have ran 120, 140 laps on a set of tires there. Regardless, since 2004, I can't remember ever wanting to run over about 40 or 45 laps at Atlanta 'cause you're ready to, you know, cord a tire or something like that just because it eats the tires up.
I think it was just extreme in Atlanta. Yeah, if they just went a little bit at Texas, I think that would be great.
Q. Do you use a Hendrick-made seat?
KASEY KAHNE: I use La joy seats. I've used LaJoie seats since I got into the Busch Series and the Cup Series. They work really well for me. I've started testing some Hendrick seats and I'm trying to figure out how to make 'em work for me.
There's a lot that goes into getting your seat exactly right. It's taken me a little bit of time. But I think eventually we'll probably run a Hendrick seat. But I'm still running LaJoies.
Q. What are you liking about the Hendrick seat that you might switch?
KASEY KAHNE: The safety. You know, I think it's a really safe seat. I think the LaJoie seat is also a really safe seat. But the best thing to me about the Hendrick seat is they're all exactly the same. You can put an insert in a seat, take that out, put that seat in another car, put an insert in that seat again. All your belts are always the same. Everything can always be the same. With the other seats, it just takes a lot more time to be comfortable. A lot of times you're still not comfortable.
I think when you get a Hendrick seat right, it's the way to go.
Q. How is Elliott Sadler feeling? Almost painful to watch him Sunday. I don't know if you got a chance to talk to him after he got out of the car.
KASEY KAHNE: I didn't talk to many people. I talked to a couple guys on my team and took off. I was thinking about Elliott today. I know he was in a lot of pain all weekend long. I was thinking about him today, gave him a call. I haven't heard back from him yet.
I think, you know, at some point today I'll talk to him and see how he's feeling. But it didn't look good. It looked really uncomfortable.
Q. Do you sense better results coming or is the mostly more hard work, needing good luck?
KASEY KAHNE: I definitely sense, you know, some great races coming ahead of us. I think we've gained a lot in the last year or in the last six months or four months, whatever you want to say. I look forward to some great results here.
So far this year as a team we've been very consistent and we've done everything we can to get the best finish possible, finish as many laps as we could, just try to do everything possible to get points.
You know, we're going to keep doing that. As time goes, we're going to be ready to win races - hopefully sooner than later. Hopefully within the next couple months we'll be ready to win.
Q. With the COT coming to Infineon, just one car for all the tracks, what kind of adjustments do you have to do in your car to make it work better at Infineon, road courses?
KASEY KAHNE: I think it's one car, but at the same time it's like we go to the big restrictor plate tracks and you kind of designate cars for speedways and for road courses and for mile-and-a-half racetracks. Just mess a lot with the weight. On a road course, I think we'll build a little bit different car so everything is straight up. You can turn just as good left as you can turn right.
I think we'll have our own road course car. Even though they say you can do it all the same, I don't really think you can do it all the same and run with the best cars. I think you have to build each car for each track.
Q. You've had a great start this season, finishing in the top 10 or top 15. Before Martinsville you seemed to enjoy running in the outside groove. Of course, at Martinsville it's best to run down on the lower groove. Do you feel that was one of the reasons maybe you finished out of the top 10? You were doing so well up there on the outside.
KASEY KAHNE: You know, at Martinsville I couldn't really get my car to work anywhere, so... The best I could do is go as low as possible, slow down a lot, speed up down the straightaways. That was the fastest we could go. I just had a hard time passing. I had a hard time getting the car to actually turn in the corner as good as I wanted it to.
That was it. Yeah, I mean, we struggled. We missed a little bit. As far as the other racetracks, I think we've -- we've raced all over the track, from the top to the bottom. We've been pretty decent anywhere on the racetrack when we've run in the top 10 this year.
Q. Is it true that Easter Sunday you were out doing some dirt racing also?
KASEY KAHNE: On Friday and Saturday I did some dirt racing up in Pennsylvania, yeah. I had a really good time up there. Easter Sunday I was back in Charlotte.
Q. I noticed we're going to be running the No. 9 Nationwide Series car this weekend. What are your goals when you strap in for that series? Is it mainly just about the fun since that particular style of track and that particular style of car really suits you?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah. Just to go out and be able to have something going on on Saturday also. Yeah, I mean, I just like racing, driving as much as I can. I like Texas a lot. I like Bristol. That's why I raced it there.
But, yeah, I do it to win. Hopefully we can figure out how to get our Unilever Dodge in Victory Lane.
Q. After the race at Las Vegas, Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage offered to have more testing for NASCAR. NASCAR said no. Take me back, what was your opinion on that? Do you think there should have been more testing before this race?
KASEY KAHNE: You know, I guess we'll find out. I think we did some -- I imagine they did testing there or something. I don't understand everything. I don't always get the full story on everything.
But Atlanta definitely should have done more testing or should have came up with a tire that we tested on when we tested.
As far as Texas, I haven't tested there, so I don't know anything about it. But if they stick to a tire similar to last year's tire, I don't think they'll be too far off.
Q. Sticking to that tire, is that something you think will help?
KASEY KAHNE: I would think so. But it's tough. I mean, if I knew, I'd build tires. I don't really have a clue on how all that stuff works. I know that they don't want to blow out right fronts and they don't want us hitting the walls head on, but they want a tire that can grip and can race.
They just need to come up with that. Goodyear needs to come up with that if they want to do the tires in NASCAR. I think they're going to work hard to do it after Tony Stewart kind of let 'em have it after Atlanta.
Q. You mentioned at the beginning when you came on just being able to focus on the new car during the off-season. What did you look back at and see in 2007 that you needed to do to improve in '08? What did you see you needed to change?
KASEY KAHNE: Just personally I just need to do the best I can, regardless. If the car is capable of finishing 30th, I need to finish 30th. If it can run 20th, I need to finish 20th. That's all I can do.
I get too frustrated trying to finish better every single time. And, you know, when you can't run with the Hendrick car, you can't beat Denny Hamlin at Martinsville, that's what you got. You know, you have to finish the race. You can't get pissed and run into something.
HERB BRANHAM: First of all, thanks to Kasey for taking time out. Best of luck this weekend in Texas.
KASEY KAHNE: Thank you.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to all the media for joining us today in advance of the Samsung 500. As always, we appreciate the coverage greatly. Thank you.
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