'I think there has been a touch of bad luck'
Kasey Kahne, driver of the number 5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, met with media and discussed the challenges of trying to obtain his first race of the season, his hopes to become the fourth Hendrick Motorsports team to make the Chase, the challenges of road course racing and the upcoming Sonoma event, and more. Full Transcript:
POCONO RACEWAY IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TOWARD GETTING YOUR FIRST WIN THIS YEAR? JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID EVERYBODY WANTS ALL FOUR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS CARS IN THE CHASE.
“At Hendrick Motorsports, we all want to be in the Chase. What Jimmie is talking about is making sure the No. 5 is in. He’s not going to give anything to me, but he’s definitely going to be happy if we pulled it off and won a race. Last time we were here we won. So, I feel good about racing at Pocono. We were really quick the first race and had an issue. The track is very similar. It’s a little different in the tunnel without the curbing but you still go through there in a very similar way; you just don’t have the curbing to avoid. So, I feel like we should be able to have a good car by the time tomorrow is over. We were off in practice. We didn’t hit on it right off the bat. It took a little while but we went to the opposite. We were real tight and got to the loose side when we made one qualifying run at the end. So now we’ll try to hit the middle of that and then tomorrow we have some practice where hopefully we can get it right. This is a track where I’ve run well in the past and with Hendrick race cars and engines it makes it a lot easier.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE CLOSER TO GETTING THINGS TURNED AROUND AND GETTING THAT FIRST WIN THIS YEAR?
“I think there has been a touch of bad luck and then we just haven’t put together full races. We’ve had great practices over the last month, maybe a little more than that. We’ve been really good in practice; great at times during the race, but we haven’t put together the full race. And when we have, it’s been one and then we forget how for the next three, and then come back for the fourth one and run pretty well. That side of it’s been tough and we’re all looking at that together to try to make it better. But I think as far as speed goes and getting the car right, we’ll be good on Sunday at points. We just need to put the whole 400 miles together. If we do that, we’ll have a shot to win.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID HE THOUGHT THE UPS AND DOWNS HAVE GOTTEN A LITTLE FRUSTRATING FOR YOU. IS THAT AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION?
“It’s been a bit frustrating at times, but I think I’ve handled it all pretty well. In my opinion I feel like I have. Last Monday was probably the worst Monday I’ve had of the season after a bad result. We went from 17th to fifth and then just couldn’t hit on it from there. But we had a really fast car. We had a great test in New Hampshire Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m excited to be here this weekend and trying to get some things rolling.
“At Charlotte we were really good in the All-Star race, the best car there, and so Jimmie and Chad (Knaus) saw that started there the next week and then built that set-up from there. And they ran with it. They won and dominated the race and did a really good job. We weren’t on the lead lap the whole night so it was hard to race. We were a lap down from the 50th mile on. So that made for a tough Charlotte. But I think we’re really close. We just need to put races together. I get down a little, but I’ve actually handled it all pretty well and I’m excited to be here and I want to win.”
WE ARE HEADED TO SONOMA IN A FEW WEEKS; CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU THINK THE RACING IS LIKE AT A ROAD COURSE IN GENERAL? IS COMPETING AT A ROAD COURSE CLOSER TO A SHORT-TRACK RACING? IS IT BETTER RACING? ALSO, TALK ABOUT THE STRATEGY IN KNOCKOUT QUALIFYING AT A ROAD COURSE:
“The Sonoma road course is so much different than say The Glen (Watkins Glen). It’s definitely more with the slower corners and the pace falls off so much at Sonoma. I feel like at times you are at somewhat of a Martinsville type short-track. Really everybody gets close together and you are getting beat by wheel spin or not. I enjoy Sonoma. I think it’s a great place to race and great country out there. I look forward to that. The qualifying will be different. It will be the first time we have had this qualifying knock-out deal at a road course. But I think with the tire wear that we have at Sonoma that it will be you will really want to hit it on your first lap. That will be your money lap. Some of these other tracks haven’t been quite that way. Maybe Sonoma won’t be like that, but I would say if anything it will fall off after each run a little bit if you nail the first one it would be hard to go quicker I would think.”
HOW DO YOU AND KENNY FRANCIS EACH HANDLE THE FRUSTRATION BETWEEN EACH OTHER?
“We haven’t had too much between each other. I feel like it’s kind of like, Kenny has a couple of engineers up there with him that they all need to work together. My communication and feedback to what the car is doing throughout the race can always be better. As a group we just look at that and try to make that better each week. Over the last few years I would say our inconsistency in those areas has been pretty bad at times and other times been really good. It’s just about doing that stuff right. Sometimes not talking like neither of us gets too upset at each other any of that I don’t know I see that kind of hurting you at times. Maybe you need to get it out there and talk about it. We have our Tuesday’s we spend a couple of hours, we had lunch yesterday for a couple of hours. We are trying. We are working at it. We just need to hit on it; once we do hopefully we can run with it for a while.”
HAS THE NEW CHASE FORMAT EASED THE PAIN FOR YOU WITH YOUR UP AND DOWN YEAR? WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN MORE FRUSTRATED WITH THE OLD FORMAT? ARE YOU AND KENNY LOOKING AT THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON AND TARGETING SPECIFIC RACES OR ARE YOU STILL TAKING IT WEEK BY WEEK TRYING TO SCORE AS MANY POINTS AS POSSIBLE?
“I look at it as we need to score as many points as we can each week. Our stretch of tracks that we run really well at started about three weeks ago. It goes for another month, so hopefully we can hit on something over this little span that we have. We haven’t yet, but we are in a good group of tracks for myself and Kenny and our team. We just have to do the best we can and hopefully as a group we figure it out and can start putting full races together. If we can do that we will be in a good spot in a hurry because of the points system and the way that it is now. Definitely not out until Richmond I guess that is when you would be out. You have a much better shot this way to make the Chase even if you are not running very well throughout the first half of the year.”
HOW MUCH COMMUNICATION DO YOU HAVE WITH THE WORLD OF OUTLAWS TEAM? DO YOU COMMUNICATE WITH THEM ALL THE TIME?
“Yeah I do. Those teams I put a lot into it and those guys put a ton into it. They are non-stop working at it. I’m always trying to come up with ways and things for them to hopefully improve their programs. Give them more opportunities, more tools to work with. Whatever I can do there I talk to them a lot. We are always trying to get that deal better. We have won – I think as a company we have won 11 so far this year. We are not doing bad, but we are not doing good enough either so we just keep working at it.”
YOU TALKED IN THE OFF SEASON ABOUT HOW YOU ARE TAKING A DIFFERENT APPROACH THIS YEAR WORKING ON ATTITUDE AND WORKING ON COMMUNICATION WITH KENNY. AS YOU HAVE GONE THROUGH THIS HAS THAT PROVED HELPFUL?
“I don’t think it has changed performance at all. It hasn’t changed any of that in my opinion yet. Maybe eventually it will, but to this point I have handled everything a lot better than what I would have in the past. My weeks aren’t near as down as some people maybe would think they should be after the way we have performed at times. I mean you just have to move on after a race and figure out how you can make it better and then do that at the next track. I’ve actually handled things pretty well and feel good about where I’m at and the things I’ve learned about myself over the last six months. As far as our performance goes we are still working on that.”
DID YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE NEW HAMPSHIRE TEST? HOW MUCH CAN THAT HELP MOVING FORWARD?
“I was hoping some of that you could apply here, but we had a pretty good deal going here last year that we have kind of started with this year and looked at to make the balance of the car similar. I guess in ways that you can with the new car this year. I just think anytime you can go and test for a couple of day and we went 8 to 8 for two days. That is a ton of laps and a lot of things that each team is trying. Jimmie (Johnson) was really good at times. Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) got good at the end. I felt like we got pretty good at the end and Jeff (Gordon) was probably the best car the first day. We were all over the place between the guys and which run it was, but we all learned a lot. I think we can put together a really good package for Hendrick Motorsports for when we go back in July and then also at the start of the Chase. I think that is a really good track to be good at. Last year we were an average 10th. That is about where I ran if I didn’t hit the wall. We need to make improvements and we went up there and hopefully we did. I felt good about it and so did the other guys.”