Kasey Kahne, the reigning United States Auto Club (USAC) WorldCom Midget Car Champion, is considered by many to be one of the rising young racecar drivers in the United States. The driver of Steve Lewis Racing's #91 Ford-powered Beast, the 21-year-old Kahne recently spent a day lapping the Homestead Motor Speedway road course in one of Team Rahal's year-old Reynards in a test sponsored by Ford Racing. Not only did Kahne enjoy his first experience behind the wheel of an 800-horsepower Champ Car, but he also impressed representatives from Ford Racing and Team Rahal who witnessed the test.
WHAT WERE YOUR INITIAL IMPRESSIONS AFTER DRIVING A CHAMP CAR FOR THE FIRST TIME?
KASEY KAHNE -- "The power of the car and how quickly it accelerated and braked was just amazing. I've never been in anything like it before, and I'm very grateful to everyone at Ford and Team Rahal for making this test happen. I knew that the car would be really fast and that the engine would be very strong, but the car had a lot more power than I expected, and it was much quicker and more responsive compared to what I'm used to driving."
DID YOU GO INTO THE TEST WITH ANY EXPECTATIONS?
KAHNE - "I really didn't know what to expect. I've watched a lot of Champ Car racing on television, but I really didn't know what to expect because I've never driven a car like it, especially on a road course. I was pretty nervous at the start, but all the guys from Team Rahal were really good at helping me to feel comfortable in the car. I didn't know how I would end up doing, but I had a lot fun driving the car and it was a great experience for me."
HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE HAVE YOU HAD DRIVING ON ROAD COURSES?
KAHNE - "The only previous experience I had on a road course was when I spent a few days with an instructor at the Bondaurant School driving a Ford Mustang, which is nothing like a Champ Car. But the thing about that experience helped me with was learning how to downshift, steer and brake on a road course."
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE FOR YOU TO GET ACCUSTOMED TO THE DRIVING CHARACTERISTICS OF THE CAR?
KAHNE - "I felt more and more comfortable every time I went out. I learned something different and figured something new out on every lap, even on the last few laps of the day. I felt really good in the car and I think I'd like to do some more because I think I could do a lot better than I did with some more time behind the wheel."
WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS FOLLOWING THE TEST?
KAHNE - "If I have the opportunity to pursue Champ Cars, I think that's the direction I want to go in, especially after doing this test. Before I went down to Homestead, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and that's the reason why we did it, to see what direction I wanted to go in next, either stock cars or Champ Cars. I had an awesome time driving the Champ Car and I'd love to do some more of it."
GREG SPECHT - Manager of North American Racing Operations, Ford Racing Technology:
WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF KASEY'S FIRST EXPERIENCE BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A CHAMP CAR?
SPECHT - "He continues to amaze me. This was only the second time he had driven on a road course and the first time he'd been behind the wheel of anything that even closely approximated a Champ Car. By about the middle of the morning he was handling the car quite well and had picked up on its mechanics. He didn't stall the car once when leaving the pit lane and he had no problem going through the gears or turning right as well as left, and once he started increasing his lap speeds he was very smooth both entering and exiting the turns. I observed him from several different corners around the track and not only did he turn in nicely, but he also picked up the proper line while going faster and faster."
WERE YOU SURPRISED BY HOW WELL HE PERFORMED?
SPECHT - "I was pleasantly surprised. I mean, I was surprised in some respects and also not surprised in some others. It seems that no matter what kind of car Kasey gets into he's fast, so I halfway expected that, but this was a big step up in a lot ways from the cars he's been driving in the past. A Champ Car is a very hi-tech piece of equipment, so when we put him on a road course on top of that I wasn't getting my expectations up too high, but, son of a gun, the kid came through."
WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP FOR KASEY?
SPECHT - "The next step is for Kasey to decide what form of racing he wants to pursue. What we're going to do is get him to a CART event so he can see what a race is like before we take him to another Winston Cup event. We're also going to put him behind the wheel of a stock car to help him decide what he wants to do."
RAY LETO - Technical Coordinator, Team Rahal
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT KASEY'S PERFORMANCE IN THE TEST AT HOMESTEAD?
LETO - "Kasey did a good job and showed a lot of courage for his first time in a Champ Car. With this being just his second time on a road course and his only other experience was in a driving school spec Mustang, he was very impressive. We basically put him out there and let him get the feel of the car on his own with a minimum of coaching. Over the course of the day we saw him really evolve and begin to put the process together. He has a great natural feel for the car and had little trouble adapting to the high horsepower and braking capability of the Champ Car. Also, I think he had a blast!"
SCOTT ROEMBKE - Chief Operating Officer, Team Rahal
WERE YOU PLEASED WITH THE RESULTS OF KASEY'S TEST?
ROEMBKE - "We were thrilled to help our partner Ford Racing out by testing Kasey. Ford has taken an interest in helping this young American driver further his racing career, and I was really impressed with his approach and the job he did and considering this was just his second time on a road course. For it also to be his first time in a high powered Champ Car, it was a very impressive day."