Kenny Francis - Indianapolis Friday Media Visit

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway

KENNY FRANCIS, JOINING HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS IN 2012 AS CREW CHIEF OF NO. 5 CHEVROLET AND DRIVER KASEY KAHNE, met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed:

KENNY, TELL US ABOUT YOUR PLANS AND HOW IT ALL CAME DOWN “You know it’s cool and I have always wanted to work for Hendrick Motorsports and I think anyone who gets into this deal has seen that and has seen that company….I mean I am 40 years old so I remember when I was a kid Bodine was driving the 5 and you know (Tim) Richmond was driving it and I used to watch it on TV and think ‘man that would be cool to be associated with that one day’………and then as the company has grown it has become the preeminent company in this sport so it’s really just an honor to be associated with it and I am looking forward to it.”

DID YOU ALWAYS THINK THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN OR WERE YOU SWEATING IT OUT OR DID YOU AND KASEY TALK ABOUT IT AND YOU KIND OF FIGURED IT WAS GOING TO GO THIS WAY? “Well, I just kept saying if we could keep from killing each other before the end of the year it will probably work out so Kasey and I get along really good so hopefully we can go over there and have some good results in the 5 car and win some races and I am just hoping I can bring something to the table for Hendrick Motorsports and help them in whatever way. If it works out I hope I can help them elevate what everyone does. I was at Evernham (Motorsports) for so long and I was always one of the guys that was contributing there pretty regularly and you know last year with the combination of the Roush cars and I felt like I was able to contribute and help and I am just hoping to carry on and help and I get satisfaction out of that. Of bringing something to the table and whether it helps me personally or helps everyone, you know, that is what I get satisfaction out of. I like figuring out new ways to do things and help the cars run better.”

Rick Hendrick, No. 5 Car Owner
Rick Hendrick, No. 5 Car Owner

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

THIS IS A UNIQUE SITUATION WHERE YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN TOGETHER SO LONG. WHY IS THAT AND WHAT HAS KEPT YOU GUYS TOGETHER FOR SO LONG? “Yeah, Kasey and I have been together now for a number of years and you know, we get along pretty good and I think we have confidence in each other and we trust each other pretty well. I think when I started with him in 2006 I told him that I didn’t always have all the answers and I will just try to be honest with you as far as whether I do or I don’t. I told him I would tell him what I do know or what I don’t know. So I think that is part of it where I don’t ever try to make him think I know something that I don’t and don’t try to BS him on anything. It’s a pretty honest relationship so I think that is part of the key.”

ARE YOU SURPRISED IT HAS GONE ON AS LONG AS IT HAS? “I have never thought about it before so I don’t know. I guess it is a little bit unique but I really don’t have a good answer for that.”

ITS DIFFERENT TEAMS, IT’S DIFFERENT MANUFACTURERS AND IN THIS ERA DOES THAT MAKE MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE AND MUCH YOU WILL HAVE TO LEARN ABOUT CHEVROLET FOR NEXT YEAR? “I won’t really know till I get there. I know when we changed from Dodge to Ford it wasn’t a huge difference but there were some differences though. And I think the big difference will be in the engine and what kind of parameters I will have to operate with in the engine. I am pretty confident that the Hendrick Chevrolet’s are pretty strong and I will have a pretty good margin to operate in. You are talking about your cooling system, you are talking about things like that that make a big difference in the performance of the car. So you look at how they run and you have to have confidence that they are pretty good.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU IN THAT THIS WILL BE THE MOST STABLE OPERATION THAT YOU HAVE BEEN WITH? “We sure hope it will smooth things out a lot kind of on the business side of it. You know we have been through so much uncertainty and turmoil over the last three years. And a lot of people have been through that but we have been through it with our particular group of guys and the team we were with so hopefully that will give us a little bit more room to focus on racing and have that distraction. But we felt like we have handled those distractions well, but they do wear on you. I think at some point you don’t really realize how much it affects you. Hopefully we won’t have to worry about that much anymore and we can just focus on race cars and making stuff better.”

HOW LIKELY IS IT THAT YOUR GUYS WILL MAKE THE MOVE WITH YOU OVER TO HENDRICK NEXT YEAR? “Well, we really don’t have that worked out yet. This kind of just got going so it’s a good group of guys so we are going to try to build the best team we can. That is what Mr. Hendrick expects and that is what we aim to do. We aim to come out and win more races than we have before and it’s going to take that to do it.”

IS THERE A POSSIBILITY OF YOU JOINING HENDRICK BEFORE THE END OF THE SEASON?

“I wouldn’t think so. We are really focused on the Red Bull car and trying to get some wins. We feel like we can win some races in the Red Bull stuff and we have got really good equipment we feel like. We feel like we have run good and we have just had some issues and we haven’t got the finishes as I am sure a lot of people have but we are really focused on getting some wins with this Red Bull car sooner rather than later. So that is kind of going to be our focus for the rest of the year and we are going to work hard on it. I don’t think there is going to be any chance of ending up over there before the end of the year so shouldn’t be any drastic changes.”

DID ANY OTHER ORGANIZATION TALK TO YOU ABOUT COMING OVER OR DID E VERYONE PRETTY MUCH ASSUME YOU WERE GOING OVER TO HENDRICK? “Well, nothing formal. You know everyone talks to everyone in the garage area. So people assume what is going to happen a lot of times so I think a lot of people just assumed what I was going to do but certainly and informally people would say, ‘what’s going on’, and I would say I don’t know yet, and think this might happen but I am not sure. Over the past couple years, and more so not necessarily this year but maybe two years ago there was a lot more of that going on where people were feeling me out. Wondering what I thought or what was going to happen with some of the uncertainty that was going on over at RPM and over there. And that is probably the time that happened the most. It was encouraging to me that there was some more interest from other teams but ultimately Kasey and I got along good enough that we thought we should try to get in a really stable situation and see what we could do. So that was kind of the strategy.”

HOW DID IT WORK OUT THAT YOU GOT HIRED AT HENDRICK? “Well at the crew chief level there is not a lot of us out there so I think everyone kind of knows everyone and over the years of doing this you build relationships and its just like any other area where you are networking and you know people so you get a comfort level with certain people and I am assuming that is how it worked. There wasn’t a formal you know, you have to apply, or anything like that. It was like, hey we think this combination makes sense and would you be interested in trying to make this work. And I was like, ‘well, yeah, what do you guys think?’ So there were conversations about whether you thought it was the right thing to do or whether it was going to be a compatible situation and things like that. I talked to Mr. Hendrick some and he thought it was a good idea so you know I felt like if between Mr. Hendrick, Ken Howes, Kasey and all the other crew chiefs that were there all thought it was a good idea, that it was probably worth giving it a shot. I think that is how it kind of works at that level.”

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST OUT OF THIS MOVE? “You know you go into a new company and you never really know what they have got until you get over there but I feel like they have got a lot of resources to build the best equipment out there. You are looking forward to the amount of resources and trying to figure out how to manage them because I think that is probably the key in how you manage all the resources to end up with the best product that you can and the more resources you get, the harder it is to get them all pointed in the right direction. So that is probably what we are looking forward to……….that challenge to get all that right.”

HAVE YOU TALKED TO KASEY SINCE HE LAUNCHED HIMSELF OUT OF THE RACETRACK? “Yeah, he is okay. It was spectacular looking but you know, that happens in Sprint Car Racing.”

HAVE YOU BEEN ITCHING TO GET OVER TO HENDRICK TO SEE WHAT THEY HAVE GOT? “Yeah, but its hard to do that. You are so busy with your own stuff trying to make your own cars better and a lot of times you can just look at them in general here at the track and think, ‘well, that is different and that is different’, but you don’t know how all that is going to add up so you really have to dig in deep….with these cars in particular because everything is so subtle. We call them COTs but we have had them for three or four years now. But with this car even though they are very similar, the differences are very subtle and you can look and kind of see what people have got but you really don’t know how that will work on your car because it all interacts so much.”

HOW ABOUT NEXT YEAR? “Well, yeah, we definitely want to get that going. We are certainly anxious to get that going and see what we can do with it but we are going to have to get over there and see what they have got and feel our way through it. And there is going to be a little bit of a learning process and we hope we can make it through that as fast as we can.”

LOT OF CREW CHIEF CHANGES OVER THE PAST COUPLE WEEKS. HOW HARD IS IT TO BE DROPPED INTO A NEW SITUATION THIS FAR INTO THE YEAR? “Yeah, there has been a lot of stuff going on the past couple weeks. It can be difficult. You know, in some situations you are dropped into a new deal with different equipment and everything is similar but its subtlety different. And people are used to a different style of how to set their car up so you have to find a middle ground on that ability and try to find out where that equipment itself lies and if you know something about the bodies or chassis or whatever the situation is. So, yes, its tough to get dropped in there and take off running. Some of those situations will probably work out good and some that will kind of just be the same.”

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN THAT SITUATION? “Not really, no. The closest thing I could say to that is coming into the Roush thing last year with RPM and trying to make all that mesh. That was similar I would say because we had a short period of time to get it going but at least we were the same driver and crew chief combination.”

TRAVIS PASTRANA GOT HURT YESTERDAY AND KASEY HAD THE BAD CRASH, DO YOU THINK ITS TIME TO HAVE THESE GUYS WALK AWAY FROM THEIR WEEKLY THINGS? “Well, there might be a call for that for some of these guys but you had Tony Stewart winning the World of Outlaws race the other day which to me is pretty cool and that would probably generate some interest. You know if I was in between generating interest and being in a closet, you know with Pastrana the whole reason people are interested in him is because he does that sort of thing. He is a good athlete and he gets out on the edge so when you get out on the edge you are going to fall sometimes. Its unfortunate that its probably going to delay his NASCAR debut I would assume. But at the same time that is what makes him interesting.”

By: team chey

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags brickyard 400, chevrolet, hendrick, indianapolis, kenny francis, nascar, nscs, sprint cup