An interview with: Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis
THE MODERATOR: We now bring our race winner in, Kasey Kahne. This is Kasey's first victory in 2011, his 12th in 287 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, and first victory here at Phoenix International Raceway. This is also the first win for the Camry here at Phoenix.
Kasey, talk about your win out there today.
KASEY KAHNE: It was a big win for the whole Red Bull team. All our guys did an awesome job. To win on a track like this, it was technical at times. Early in the race, it was different than any time I've been on it.
It was just different. We had to work on the car as the rubber came on the track, then it started changing more. It was a hard-fought day. The Red Bull team did a great job with the pit stops and the adjustments throughout the race to get us back to the front, just put us in position to have a shot.
THE MODERATOR: Joining Kasey is crew chief Kenny Francis. Talk about the day today from the pit box.
KENNY FRANCIS: From the pit box, the track changed a lot. It wasn't really surprising. I think everyone knew it was going to do something, we just didn't know what. Everyone was kind of guessing.
We started, went in one direction, then had to turn around and go back in the other direction to get the car to work.
All in all we made a lot of adjustments on the car. Actually got it reasonable and pretty fast at the end. So we were pretty happy with it.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Your team is supposed to be shutting down in eight days. Kasey, you're second in points during the Chase behind only Edwards and Stewart. How have you put this streak together with the pressure of knowing the team is closing down around you?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, we're lucky that everybody kept working hard and has stayed after it, preparing great racecars. We're bringing awesome cars to the track.
KENNY FRANCIS: Brand-new car.
KASEY KAHNE: Brand-new car.
I wouldn't say there's anyone out there that's building better cars at this time. The Red Bull guys are doing an awesome job and they haven't given up.
It's tough to hear you say it's shutting down in eight days. Over the last three months, you have one of the top-five cars in NASCAR shutting down and that's crazy.
I think it's just the people. They haven't given up. They're doing a great job. We've been able to stay focused. I love racing. If I'm in a racecar, I want to do the best that I can. Kenny Francis has given me some cars in the last few months that we've been able to perform with and run with Carl and Tony, who have been probably the two best.
Q. What are your impressions of driving on the track? I know there was some concern coming here. Kenny, what kind of information did you have coming in that you could use and what did you have to gather as you went along this weekend?
KASEY KAHNE: From my side, to me, other than the track being slippery, and that's a hard tire a brand-new surface, it takes time to rubber in, takes time to get old and gritty and things. So the entry to the corners are slippery. The car slides a little bit more than you would like. That's part of this place. It's actually like that with the old track, too. It's flat when you turn off the wall. It's somewhat of a slippery, technical track at times.
As the rubber went onto the racetrack, I really think this place is cool and I think it's only going to get better as time goes on.
I think it raced probably the best I can remember a brand-new race surface racing on the first race. I think it's only going to get better, be a pretty exciting track. I think you're going to have a lot of the drivers, teams, fans, looking forward to racing at Phoenix, looking forward to coming to Phoenix twice a year.
KENNY FRANCIS: For my part of the question, what kind of information we had to work with. We had the test back in October where we gathered a lot of information, ran a lot of laps here. Kind of got an idea what we thought the car kind of liked as far as the setup, which was different than what we had run here in the past, because we ran good here in the spring here on the old track that was completely different from that.
We felt like it was sort of similar to Loudon and we used that kind of as a basis for our thoughts. We raced a different setup than we tested. We raced a different setup than Loudon. You're thinking in those kind of directions.
Once we started the race, we knew the track was going to be a lot different than how we practiced. We knew it was going to change through the day; we just didn't know what it was going to do. We were fortunate to be able to adjust correctly and get our car pretty good.
Q. Kasey, coming into Red Bull, being a newbie there, what do you think is the difference between the type of performance you've been able to put up there and the performance of your teammate Brian Vickers?
KASEY KAHNE: I think like coming to Red Bull, it was exciting for me. It was something new, a change. I was really looking forward to coming over here and having one strong year here. I've been able to work with Kenny and Keith. We just keep trying to get a little bit better each week. They keep trying to give me things to make me be able to go around the track as fast as I can.
I'm not sure how Brian and those guys go at it, but he's been a great teammate. Ryan Pemberton has been great to work with. Always has a ton of enthusiasm. They're both in Victory Lane after the race congratulating us. They're right there in all of our debriefs and things. It's been a lot of fun working with those guys.
Like I said, I was excited to go to Red Bull this year, to be able to have fun and have a good teammate and work with a lot of good people over there. It's been cool. It's been a lot of fun.
Q. Kenny, can you give a short explanation of why have you entered here a third car? Will you enter a third car in Homestead? (Question regarding the Red Bull team ownership.)
KENNY FRANCIS: I think they ran the third car with Cole because Cole has been a Red Bull driver. They just wanted to give him a shot. We had the equipment in the shop. It was just a matter of putting it together and bringing it out here for him.
As far as I know, Cole is going to run next week, which I think is good. I think Cole is a good guy. He deserves to have a shot and get some experience.
As far as anything with the selling of the team or whatever, I don't really have any knowledge of any of that. I couldn't speak to that even if I did. But I have no idea what's going on with that.
Q. You both have known this was a one-year deal, then heading off to Hendrick. Can you talk about the emotions of getting Red Bull possibly its last win as an organization.
KASEY KAHNE: It feels really good. Hopefully it's not their last win. I think we're going to have a shot next week, too. I'm looking forward to Homestead.
It feels great to get a win for Red Bull and get a win in the 4 car. It's something new for both of us to come over and have a one-year deal. It takes time to get familiar with things and the people and working together. To win a race at this level, as competitive as everything is right now, for myself, to see how happy all the pit crew guys were, the guys preparing the racecars at Red Bull, it was pretty cool. Makes you feel pretty good to be part of that.
KENNY FRANCIS: From my perspective, like he said, hopefully we have a shot at it next week, too. We got a good chance.
The biggest thing for me is how proud I am of the guys that put these cars together. We built all these things in-house, pretty much the hole thing. So to see this team, it's kind of go their own way, do their own thing type of team. We feel like we've been growing all year and getting better and better and better. To finally cap it off with a win, I'm excited for the guys that built these cars and put all the effort into making this happen.
We're just kind of the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot going on underneath for sure. Those guys deserve a lot of credit and a lot of pats on the back for this win, for sure.
Q. Kasey, was this a statement win for you of sorts, proving you can get a win in this equipment, basically you're not biding your time before you take off for Hendrick Motorsports?
KASEY KAHNE: We have great cars. I feel each week I'm going to the racetrack with as good a car as anybody out there, which has been really nice this season.
Yeah, we haven't won in a while. There's been a lot of ups and downs. We were able to finally put a whole race together today, a little luck. Everything that falls into winning a race, we had it today. That's what you need to win at this level.
It feels great to win. I look forward to next year and look forward to Homestead. Every time I get to race a car, I look forward to. It's pretty cool to get to do what I do.
Q. Kasey, as a driver who has won multiple times, then the long drought, it's been since '09, what does this win do for you?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think it gives you confidence. It's a great time to win, late in the season, with a two-month off-season coming up. Definitely a good time to win a race.
But these last couple months, I don't know if it's 10 races or 12 or 15, we've been really competitive and really fast. There at the beginning of the that when we got competitive, we had a little bit of bad luck, things happened, didn't get the results we were looking for. But since it's been great.
So I've been each weekend going into the race feeling confident and feeling like we had a shot. Then to win a race, it boosts you even more, boosts the guys. Those pit crew guys, they've really stepped up the last couple guys which is exciting from my standpoint. I come into the pits, know we're going to have a good stop, know we're going to be in the mix still. That's pretty good.
Like Kenny said, there's a lot of people under us that have really performed, really put in a lot of time and effort into this so that the 4 car was able to win today.
Q. Kasey, in Victory Lane you talked about how it took time to get adjusted at Red Bull, took time to learn the cars and everything. How do you feel about what next year is? Is it going to be starting over again? How do you look at the start of next season?
KASEY KAHNE: I think anytime you change, it's going to be different. We were able to test the 5 car at Charlotte. Some of the feelings and things were definitely different than what we have right now, what I've had in the past. So you have to figure that out.
As long as myself and Kenny are communicating well and trying to work together, we go to lunch a lot, try to run through things, think about stuff, hopefully we can figure it out pretty quickly.
This season we started off pretty good at times and there were other times we were down a little bit. Hendrick Motorsports has a really good platform. They have a lot of people there that are solid. I feel like we can step in there and be pretty competitive off the bat. It's going to take time to be really strong - as strong as what we want to be when we're racing over there.
Q. Kasey, although you're not in the championship Chase, we have two really determined drivers left. How do you look back as a fellow racer and size that battle up?
KASEY KAHNE: It's been fun to watch from my standpoint. I think the last couple weeks I started right behind them. They started the two spots in front of me. I raced with them, right behind them. To be able to beat them today feels pretty good.
They've put on a great show. Carl has been really consistent and really fast all season long. Tony's stepped up like no other in the Chase. It's pretty impressive what those two guys have done. It's going to be the same way at Homestead. I feel like it's going to go right to the end of that race before we know who is going to be the champion.
Hopefully we're in the mix because you know those two are going to be up front.
THE MODERATOR: Kenny, Kasey, congratulations. Good luck next weekend.