Michigan International Speedway June 13, 2010 An interview with: KASEY KAHNE - 2nd finisher KURT BUSCH - 3rd finisher KERRY THARP: Let's roll into our post race press conference here at Michigan International Speedway. Our race runner-up is...
Michigan International Speedway
June 13, 2010
An interview with:
KASEY KAHNE - 2nd finisher
KURT BUSCH - 3rd finisher
KERRY THARP: Let's roll into our post race press conference here at Michigan International Speedway. Our race runner-up is Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford.
Kasey, a solid run out there for the No. 9.
KASEY KAHNE: It was. Our whole Budweiser team did a really nice job. We showed up with a new Ford engine, night-and-day difference than what I had last week at Pocono. I was definitely happy with the Roush-Yates Ford engine that they brought for our first time to race. It was a nice improvement. So that was good for all the Ford teams. I think they'll all run better now.
I felt like our team did a good job. We didn't lose 10 spots in the pits, I didn't make mistakes. Good feedback. The adjustments on the car were good. You know, we didn't break any parts. The car stayed together. We just kind of had a lot of downs this year, and it was nice to put a full race together and actually feel like a Cup team, Cup driver.
It was a good run for us, something to build on. I think we have a strong team and we showed that in the past. We just need to keep building on it.
I don't think we're out of the Chase yet, but we're right on the edge. If we can throw together a few top 10s, top fives, it will be tough, but we still have a shot.
KERRY THARP: Questions for Kasey Kahne.
Q: Kasey, you made no mistakes today. Your car was fast as it's been all year. Yet the 11 was in its own class. You have to be happy about what you did, what your team did, but is it still frustrating to know that nobody else was close to the 11?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, they've been like that here for a couple months, two and a half months or so. I wasn't surprised they were really strong. We made a huge gain. We were way better than we've been in a short period of time this week.
I wasn't surprised. I didn't like watching him drive away from me, but I wasn't surprised when he did. I thought we had a really good car, really good effort by our whole team. The 11 was just a touch better.
Q: Kasey, it looked like on the last stop for you and Matt, the steam was pouring out there. Were you concerned there? Are you happy that it showed the engine can take that kind of heat and still keep going? Is that maybe an improvement you wouldn't have had with the other one?
KASEY KAHNE: I don't think it's improvement. The other one could handle heat also. But it was nice to see that this one could handle heat.
When you run all over the racetrack, I ran from the white line right up beside the wall. On a big track like this, California is is the same way, it's easy to pick up debris, covered the grill a couple times. Get to 280, it's going to get real hot when you pull to a stop. It cooled right back off and the engine felt strong the whole race. It didn't feel like it affected it in any way.
Q: Kasey, you talked about the night-and-day difference. What in your mind was the biggest difference that you could feel from last week to this week? Was your success even all the more sweeter because in your class it was not an isolated case? You had five guys in the top 12.
KASEY KAHNE: Five Fords? See, I didn't know that. That's good. That's what I feel. Four or five of the guys had this at Pocono last week and I didn't have it. Last week at Pocono, I couldn't draft. I could get a run off the corner, feel like I was catching the guy. As soon as I got to the straightaway, RCR, Hendrick, Toyota, Gibbs, they would pull back away from me down the straightaway. That shouldn't happen when you're behind them. You should get the draft and suck up.
That showed me we were at a big disadvantage as a driver. I complained about it some. They've been working hard on this engine. This week I could suck up. Even if I didn't get a big run off the corner, I was still in the draft and I could still suck up to the car in front of me which is how it's supposed to work. It felt good to be on a level playing field, just have to work on the car and work on other things that matter to try to win the race.
But I didn't feel like we were at a disadvantage with the engine. I can go back to my Dodge years. Last year was one of the worst years our engines ran being at Richard Petty Motorsports. Same situation. Felt really good in practice. When I sucked up to Kyle Busch on Friday, Man, we actually have something to work with today. It was a good feeling.
Q: Kasey, the last debris caution, did you see the debris? Did you think you had a chance at Hamlin or did you know it was going to be difficult because he was so strong?
KASEY KAHNE: It was a big piece of debris back there. I saw it. I felt good at the time. I thought we may have a shot. We ran 39.70 our first lap after we had tires. Only had two laps on them. We definitely made gains. Tightened the car up a little bit. I thought we made gains. Maybe I could hang with him.
I hung with him for about three laps running in his kind of dirty air, was right there. Then he just slowly creeped away. It felt good. I mean, we were close. That's a huge improvement. I was pretty happy.
Darlington, Dover, Charlotte wasn't real good, but Darlington, Dover, Pocono, top-five cars. Just errors. Didn't finish. So it was nice to put the whole thing together.
Q: Kasey, you mentioned being able to suck up more this week than you could at Pocono. Could you put a number horsepower-wise, if there's any appreciable difference with the FR9 engine? Do you feel conflicted at all leading the Ford parade knowing you'll drive a Chevrolet in 2012?
KASEY KAHNE: I don't know numbers. I didn't ask. They didn't tell me. If you can feel it as a driver, when you're talking 800 some horsepower on a two-mile racetrack, if you can feel it when you touch it, also down the straightaway at top ends as well, it's good got to be a decent number. They definitely made improvements. It could handle heat. Supposedly it's lower weight, which is good for these cars. They're so big and top-heavy. I think Ford has made a really nice improvement.
I was happy to be the best Ford today. Hopefully we can keep after it and be solid the rest of the year.
Q: Do you have any frustration trying to maintain focus on this season, but then also trying to figure out what your future holds for next season?
KASEY KAHNE: Not too much on this year. I mean, all I really like to do is race. I don't really care about a whole lot of other things right now in my life. It's just nice to focus on racing.
When you're having bad weeks and things happening, it gets frustrating. Yeah, you look ahead, Man, I can't wait. You think about that at times. At the same time I made a commitment to Ray Evernham, George Gillett, Richard Petty. I'm going to stick to it. Whether somebody doesn't like me there or a lot of people, whatever it may, I'm going to stick to my commitment. I've worked hard there for six and a half years. I'm going to finish strong there.
Rick Hendrick is working on the rest. It's nice to have someone like that working on the next five years of my career.
Q: A strong run today, then going to a place next week where you surprised a lot of people, perhaps even yourself with a win last season. Your thoughts going back to Sonoma?
KASEY KAHNE: That was definitely a surprise last year. We felt really strong the whole race, practice day and evening. Hopefully we can unload similar this year. Be a little different with the Ford engine, how it runs, things like that. But I look forward to it. I always liked Sonoma. I liked it when I didn't run well there. I enjoyed learning that type of racing. Hopefully we can put another top 10 together.
That's a tough track. There's a lot that goes on there that that you don't have control of and a lot that you do have control of. Hopefully we can have some luck and have a solid race.
Q: On a lighter note, that, 'gentlemen start your engines' command today, was that the best you heard?
KASEY KAHNE: I couldn't hear very well. I could hear a lot of noise. I just thought it looked like Kevin was dancing and Adam may have been singing, I don't know. I had lunch with the guys prior to the race. We had Grown Ups on our Budweiser Ford. Went and watched a screening of it last night. It's a great show. Hilarious. I think a lot of people are going to like it when it comes out June 25th. Those guys put on a show. They're definitely good guys to have around and fun guys to have at the racetrack.
KERRY THARP: Kasey, thank you so much. Good run today. Good luck next week at Infineon.
At this time we'll call up Kurt Busch. Kurt finishes third today in the No. 2 Miller Lite Vortex Dodge for Penske Racing. Kurt, another solid run for this race team.
KURT BUSCH: It was an exceptional day for our team, to be able to have the captain on top of the spotter's tower, out there up front early on, I felt like we had a special day brewing for us. To sit on the pole, lead a lot of laps with our Miller Lite Vortex Dodge, we felt like we had things going our way.
As the race progressed, the track rubbered in. It wasn't that we didn't keep up with adjustments. I thought we had a good handle on the car. Other guys got better than us. In Sprint Cup racing, if you're off just a little bit, somebody is going to jump on top of you, get by you, pass you, make you feel like you belong up there.
Great day for us. Denny Hamlin deserves all the credit. He put on a good show. That team has been dominant. They are showing their strength.
Then to race Kasey Kahne, he is in a Ford. The winner was a Toyota. We were in a Dodge. The guy that finished behind me was in a Chevrolet. It's a dream that you could ask for when you come to Michigan is to see all the manufacturers have the success they had today. Of course, I was pulling for Dodge, trying to get our Dodge into Victory Lane. Just came up a bit short.
All in all, man, this was a great day for us points-wise. What we found out on the track today will hopefully help us at some of the ovals later on.
KERRY THARP: Questions.
Q: Kurt, you put on a great show, have done exceptionally well this season. Now Hamlin has won five spoiler races. That's enough of a number. When you go into the Chase, he'll have the bonus points. How do you stop that or combat that or catch up?
KURT BUSCH: Those guys have all the top ingredients, it seems like. When you're a chef and somebody gets a better looking steak than you, it's going to taste better. Those Gibbs guys are doing it right now with their horsepower, their aerodynamics. They've sorted out the spoiler it seems like.
I wouldn't say we're very far behind in any of the categories, it's just that balance that you find. It's that little itty bit of speed that translates into a 10th of a second. Those guys have definitely found it.
I mean, Gibbs is running strong. Jeff Gordon said out there today that Hendrick is not the top team. It's like, Come on, Jeff, it's going to be all right, buddy, you finished fourth. Right now everybody is in this game. Nobody is going to separate themselves anytime soon. I see the competition right now the most equal it's been in years.
Q: You have been great on intermediate tracks. Every time you get momentum going, you've stumbled, either a Martinsville, Richmond. Now you're going to Sonoma, which you've qualified very well there but haven't been able to put together the positions. Is this just a matter of trying to keep consistency all the way through?
KURT BUSCH: We've got to find some more consistency, you're right. There's a couple tracks coming up in the summer months that we're looking at. Then there's some we feel very comfortable going into. It's been an interesting year for us. Tracks that I've struggled on in the past we've done really well; tracks that we've expected to do well on we've struggled.
So I just feel like once we turn the corner on finding a consistent setup for us week in and week out, then we'll be stronger. Right now with the variety of racetracks coming up, we're going to see the different strengths of all the teams coming up here because we got a road course, a flat one-mile oval, Daytona, superspeedway, restrictor plate race, then a mile-and-a-half like Chicago, then we have a week off. That's the chunk of the schedule I'm looking at next. Variety of tracks coming up are going to show some of the strengths of the teams.
Q: Kasey a moment ago said they did everything right today, didn't make a mistake, the car was better than it's been, yet they weren't even close as far as catching the 11. Was there a point today when you just said, Nobody's going to touch that 11, they were just that good?
KURT BUSCH: I mean, there was a couple battles we had on restarts I was able to squeak out in front. He was able to pull up ahead on some of the other ones.
If you feel like you're in your racecar and you're missing just a little bit, somebody is going to go blowing by you. Denny Hamlin had that today. There's times when I've had a perfect car like I did at the Coca-Cola 600 and we were able to bring it on home, somebody like McMurray that finished second could say like Kahne did today: He did everything right, but things didn't fall his way.
If everybody had an A out there, the 11 car has an A plus. We'll see what we can do. It's a strong race they've had today. They've had consistency throughout this year. But it's just a matter of if you've got your car perfect, you can pull into Victory Lane and beat anybody out here.
Q: It seems like the No. 2 team is this close to really turning the corner and running up front consistently like this on a weekly basis. Do you feel if there were more Dodge teams in the Sprint Cup Series that that would help speed up that transition?
KURT BUSCH: Yeah, it's hard to know that answer. I feel like the relationship we have with Dodge at Penske Racing is a general family oriented relationship where we're definitely in this together.
All their eggs are in one basket with us at Penske Racing. I feel like sometimes, yeah, I'm out on an island on my own. In the end, we were very close to winning the race today. If we would have brought home a banner win in Michigan in Dodge's backyard, we might be answering a few other different questions. Right now we're in the mix.
If I could get my teammates up to speed and to have a little bit more of a pattern going through the whole program, then, yeah, I mean, it would feel like a power team. We wouldn't need other Dodge teams out there.
We're close, we're very close. I'm proud to carry the banner right now.
Q: You were talking about the schedule upcoming, the different tracks. What does today do you feel shows in the sense there's only a few more intermediate type tracks for the Chase, Chicago, Michigan, Atlanta? Not too many opportunities to get things fixed or perfected. How do you move forward based off today?
KURT BUSCH: There's that bonus point situation where you win, you bring those into the Chase. For us, we feel comfortable right now with our points situation. But we still want to have some consistent runs to back up any mistakes that could pop up, whether it's missing the setup, getting caught up in a wreck. These next few weeks, the variety of racetracks, we have to continue to explore new ideas. I think that always makes you stronger when you're knocking more things off your checklist.
But the most important race coming up is Loudon, New Hampshire, that's in two weeks. That will be the first race in the Chase. That's how you get off to a good start in the Chase. Then there's those bulk of mile-and-a-half's that are in the Chase. Chicago tells you a little bit. Atlanta is what Atlanta is because it chews up tires so bad. For us, we have to look at Dover, see what we can do to be better there. Martinsville has always been a struggle for me. When we go to Talladega in the Chase.
The summer run right now, it's important to continue on with good, solid finishes. It's also important when you have a car to win, like what we had today, to be able to pull that thing into Victory Lane and get those 10 bonus points.
Q: Can you also talk about how challenging it is to maintain that strength. We're three months away from the Chase. Just because they're good today, doesn't mean they're going to be as dominant in three months.
KURT BUSCH: Absolutely. Things change so fast in this sport. You can be onto something like I think we are with this Miller Lite team. In three months when the Chase starts, we could be scratching our heads, Where did our speed go? This next stretch, it's a lot of fun, the variety of races, the action that happens out on the track, some guys are going to start feeling the pressure of not being comfortable in the Chase, then there's going to be those guys pushing hard to get those wins, like the 11, the 48, the 29, the 2, the 17, the 24. Those guys that are in the top six, seven in the Chase, they're going to be pushing for wins to bring in those bonus points.
Q: You've won a pole at Sonoma. You have two top fives there. Have you tested at all in the last couple weeks? What does your car look like for next week?
KURT BUSCH: It's amazing how much effort we put into road course racing, yet we only go there twice a year. I feel like at Penske we have a very strong car. It's advanced itself since last year with carrying more right-side weight, weight lower in the racecar. The general test sessions we've done, we've done two at VIR. Working with Addington, he's won at Sonoma with Kyle. I feel a whole different type of setup in the car. I'm anxious to get out there, see how it shakes down.
We've had good qualifying cars in the pass at Penske. In the race, seemed to lack a little bit of that forward bite, that grip coming off the corners, which is important at Sonoma. We have all that horsepower. We have to stay out there so long on the last tank of gas, that's where the key to the race is, is maintaining that grip, staying out there as long as you can on a tank of gas.
KERRY THARP: Kurt, thank you very much. Continued luck next week at Infineon.
KURT BUSCH: Thank you so much. Appreciate it.