Kasey Kahne - Media Tour interview 2011-01-25

KASEY KAHNE, No.4 Red Bull Toyota Camry, Red Bull Racing Team

What are your goals this year with your teammate Brian Vickers?

"Just working together, he (Brian Vickers) wants to. I want to. Our teams (have goals), and to me it's a good relationship and it should be all season long. I think we can both get a lot out of it. That's the goal of having teammates. I think it's going to be good."

Will this be a hard year for your knowing you will only be with the team for one season?

"It's different than some situations -- or than most situations -- but it's what we have. Red Bull was really excited about it. I was really excited about it. Kenny Francis (crew chief) and the team -- to me it's a good thing. I think it's going to be just fine. One year, we'll do all we can to do it right and have a great season and go from there. You never know what's going to happen in racing. You never know what's going to happen at the end of the season. It's kind of always up in the air, but I would say that we can do a lot this year and really have a great year."

How happy are you to have this ride with the current economic struggles in NASCAR?

"I'm really happy. Something would've happened for sure this year. Mr. (Rick) Hendrick was behind it and told me it would (work). So, that's basically why I made the decision I did for kind of the next five years. When he told me (about) Red Bull, I was like, they weren't having a good season. It wasn't much of a year for them, but I know what they have here and what they do. I know a lot of the people, so I got excited pretty quick. Once I started going over there, even prior to driving for them, and just knowing what was going on, talking to some of the guys, I was like, `Man, this is actually going to be a really good spot for me.' So, it's been exciting. I think we can do a lot in this one season, as a team and as a company together."

Do you think the type of drama that happened last season helps NASCAR?

"I don't think it hurts. There's 43 guys that want to win the race and if something happens -- somebody gets used up or done wrong, then they're definitely going to have an issue with that. I was able to watch a lot of it and I kind of laughed at a lot of it and thought it was pretty good. I think I was maybe in one myself and it was pretty easy going and kind of over. There was definitely some good ones. There was some exciting stuff that went on that isn't bad. It's just showing the drive and things that each one of these drivers and teams have to win races."

Does the one-year deal with Red Bull give you more incentive to be successful?

"It definitely makes you want it pretty bad. I think I will as long as I'm in racing. I've always wanted to just do everything I can to win and this is one of those years where you go into it really confident because of the off-season and because of the way that Red Bull is preparing for this season. I'm really excited. I think we can do a lot. I think we can run strong and have a lot of fun at the same time. I'm looking forward to it and can't wait to get started."

Do you think there needs to be more attention focused on the drivers instead of on the race cars?

"I think things are actually -- the car itself to me is a blast to drive. It's created a ton of great racing over the last few years, especially this last year. I thought it was some of the best racing that I've been a part of since I've been in NASCAR. I like what we have. I like how it keeps getting better, and to me it's a great car. I think there's a lot of personalities in NASCAR, from the drivers and things that are pretty good. I don't know exactly what to do there, but I think that the car itself -- I love what I do. I think it's some great racing."

Have you talked with Brian Vickers about what he's gone through to be able to come back to NASCAR?

"I've known Brian (Vickers) for a long time. I wouldn't say we're best friends or anything, but we've definitely been friends for a long time. Myself, I take off a month and a half during the offseason and I can't wait to get back in the car. I do and I'm so excited for a couple days to just be back in a race car and get to feel it, whether it's any type of car and especially our Sprint Cup cars. To me, I couldn't imagine being out for eight months at this time of your career. I'm not sure how old he is, but whatever he is, that's a great time in his career and where he's at in racing. I think it would be really difficult to be out, but at the same time things happen, you get it fixed up and you go on. And, that's what he's done. I think he's got to be relieved and just excited as can be to be back in the car. I'm looking forward to working with him and having a great season together."

Was it a coincidence that you drafted quite a bit with the Hendrick teams at the Daytona test?

"The reason that happened is there were four guys who wanted to draft. It was me and Brian (Vickers) and Jimmie (Johnson) and (Dale Earnhardt) Junior that first day. So, we kind of all worked together and drafted together and it worked out pretty well. Those are two good cars to kind of surround yourself with and see where you compared with those guys. It was good for us. As far as working together, I think Red Bull and Toyota do their thing and Hendrick and Chevrolet do theirs. This year I'm working with Red Bull and Toyota."

Do you have a different approach this year knowing you will only be with Red Bull for one season?

"It really doesn't change because the way I look at it is I always want to make the Chase. You have to make the Chase. That's what everybody is here for. You have to win races, that's why we do it is to win. That's why we drive and race. And the only way to do that is to be consistent in this sport and that's something where I feel like I've failed over the years. I've had years where I haven't been very consistent, I've had years where we've been a lot better and that's something that I need to get a lot better at. To me, if I want to win races and make the Chase I need to be consistent. That's something I need to do this year, I need to do next year and on and on. That's the only way to make it happen in NASCAR."

Why did you start racing with Red Bull toward the end of the 2010 season?

"As much as anything, I liked kind of just changing and starting out with a team and getting used to their ways a little bit. I think that was definitely good. I think it was good for myself to get away from where I was. It needed to happen sooner than later. I think it was good for RPM (Richard Petty Motorsports) to get me out of there. They were happy about it and I was happy about it and we've went on. I'm actually really happy with where I'm at, and since Kenny Francis (crew chief) and some of the guys that I've worked with in the past have came over to Red Bull, I just feel really confident and really under control. I know exactly what is going on. I feel like that's a good thing and it's going to be really beneficial for all of us this year to have Kenny and a lot of the guys that came."

What would it mean for you to win the Daytona 500 in this car?

"It would be great to win at Daytona. I got a little bit of a taste of it by winning a 150 (qualifying race) there. And, we ran pretty strong there all of the races last year, it seemed like. I feel confident running well at Daytona and the 4 has been impressive at times there so hopefully we can just have a really good Speed Weeks, be upfront in everything we do and start the season off right. That's all we can ask for, that's what we're going for."

What were you and Brian Vickers able to learn at the Daytona test last week?

"There was a lot you could learn with that two-car deal. The pack was too small to really learn a lot as far as the drafting side goes with the bigger pack. Nobody ever wanted to draft -- or not enough cars at once so that made it tough. I think myself and Brian (Vickers) started it and then everybody else by the end of the testing were really focusing on the two-car stuff and making changes and figuring out how you work together and how that works. I think it was really good. You're going to need that as far as the way that the track is now. I don't think you'll need it as much as what we did at the test. With the big pack, you'll need it at times and it's good to know how it works and how you can make it work better."

Are you at a point in your career where you feel like it's time to have more success on the race track?

"I've been at that point, really. I feel like it should happen. I don't feel like I have near enough wins. I don't have near enough poles. I haven't made the Chase enough. Everything about what I've done I don't feel like I've done near enough. I'm a pretty competitive person when it comes to racing and a lot of things off the track. I want to do it right. I want to figure out how to win more and contend a lot more often."

Are you disappointed you will only be with the Red Bull brand for a year?

"You never know how long it will be as far as my relationship with Red Bull. Hopefully it's a lot longer than one year. Like I said, I like what we have going on and hopefully we can do good things together this year and make it a longer deal. If it's only one year, it's one year and I'm going to do everything I can to win races and do it right."

Is it strange for you to have gone through all of the manufacturers in the series?

"It all changes a little bit. I noticed how many cars are on the road and you look at what's out there. To myself, I liked the Dodge stuff, I liked the Ford stuff, I like the Toyota and then I'm going to enjoy the Chevrolet. I've never kind of been part of that. Where I'm at, I've got to get a little bit of each one of them and I think it's actually kind of neat for myself. Yeah, I enjoy vehicles and I enjoy cars. I'm with Toyota now."

What made you change to the 4 car?

"They've been 82, 84 and 83 and I didn't really want to be any of those numbers so I asked if I could be -- when I go and race my Sprint car I'm number 4. We have our own kind of numbers -- the 4, the 9, the 91 and the 49 -- all our numbers kind of match and look similar that we did. I just asked them if they cared if I was 4, nobody is and kind of ran our design and everything. They were actually perfectly fine with it. I think it looks really good on the car. It looked great on the race track. It looks good on everything they've done with the 4 so far. I'm glad that Red Bull was behind it and it's pretty cool."

Are your knees completely recovered from your off-season surgeries?

"Yeah, probably not basketball because I can't really twist a lot yet and maybe come down wrong. As far as running, I'm running every day. I'm biking every day. I've been biking for about a month, but running didn't start until last week. I feel pretty good. I'm already running on the treadmill at 8.0 so that's pretty decent. The knees aren't too bad if you can do that. They don't affect me. I didn't even feel them sitting in the race car. They feel better now than they felt at the end of last year. I'm actually pretty happy with it."

What did you actually have done to your knees?

"From what I understand, we're all born with Plica. We're all born with it and most of it goes away and mine didn't. Mine actually kind of got bigger and filled up my joints so it was rubbing on my joints and rubbing on your kneecap and things like that. So, it was kind of a pain. Then, I tore my meniscus in my right knee so they had to fix that also so that was a pain all of last year. I did that in March of last year, so I just kind of lived with it all year and got lucky that something didn't happen there because it could've been much worse."

What does the Red Bull Racing Team have to offer you during this one year, before you move on?

"I feel like they can give me -- I think the biggest thing is the stability, the drive of winning, the excitement of all the employees and just how everybody wants to run good. Everybody wants to make themselves better. We want to do it for Red Bull. To me, it's just a good attitude. I think a lot of it has to do with attitude and that's what I feel they're giving me as much as anything -- a great opportunity."

How does your crew chief Kenny Francis fit in at Red Bull?

"Well, he's (Kenny Francis, crew chief) is not going to change, so that doesn't really matter. He just does his thing. He's a great guy. He'll sit there and if you can get him to open up and talk about things, he's a really good guy. I've learned a lot and really like Kenny. But he's probably not the edgiest guy around. That's fine, I think it's great. He doesn't change, I can tell you that. It doesn't matter who is talking to him or what time of day or when it is, he's that same person. There's nothing wrong with that."

-source: toyota motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Richard Petty , Kasey Kahne , Brian Vickers
Teams Red Bull Racing , Richard Petty Motorsports