Sears Point: Winning team press conference, part 1

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Post-Race Transcript An Interview With: KASEY KAHNE - Winner KENNY FRANCIS - Crew chief RICHARD PETTY - Car owner THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner and crew chief, Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis. This...

Toyota/Save Mart 350 Post-Race Transcript

An Interview With:
KASEY KAHNE - Winner
KENNY FRANCIS - Crew chief
RICHARD PETTY - Car owner

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by our race winner and crew chief, Kasey Kahne and Kenny Francis. This is Kasey's first road course win, his first victory since Pocono in June 2008. Kasey, open up, talk about winning here at Infineon Raceway.

KASEY KAHNE: It feels great. With myself, I've had issues here in the past with finishing anywhere on this course, so to qualify good the last two years here, three years here and then race really strong today was the first time that I've been able to pull that off.

Working with Kenny Francis, Keith Rodden, our engineer, and our whole Budweiser team did just a perfect job today. Our car felt great. It turned awesome, it had great forward drive, and I was able to race with some of the fastest guys throughout the race, and we were able to win. I'm excited as can be to win a race at Infineon.

THE MODERATOR: There was some interesting strategies going on out there on Pit Road. Take us through what you saw on top of the pit box.

KENNY FRANCIS: There was a lot going on there. With this new tire Goodyear brought it was a lot different complexion of racing than it's been in the past, and you kind of had to decide what to do with your tires and whether to come get tires or stay out there a couple times during the middle of the race.

The fuel strategy is always an issue here with can you pit early and make it all the way, or do you risk the cautions or do you come in when you get your window. But we played it. There was a stretch there in the middle of the race where we were in the about the middle of the pack and the fuel thing hadn't cycled out yet so we elected to come get tires, and I think that was probably the key move for us for the race. We drove up through the field on the tires and got up near the front, then when the pit stop stuff cycled out we were right there in the front.

So it all worked out. We didn't know what was going to happen. We were sitting on the box and had no idea how it was going to work out. We said, we'll try to stick to our plans, hit our window that we're wanting to hit and hopefully it works out, and it did luckily.

Q: Kasey, you won with Evernham Motorsports and Gillett Evernham Motorsports and now Richard Petty Motorsports. Does it feel like all those wins were with the same organization? Does it feel any different now, especially with Petty being there?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, really it feels like it's the same thing. Being in the same shop, racing with the same guys, I know so many people at the company, at the organization now, and over the last six years it's been crazy to stay at a place and enjoy it like we have.

To see Richard Petty in the winner's circle with us today, that was big. That was a neat deal, and excited to see him up there. I don't think coming in today he expected the 9 to win. I don't know if anybody did.

You know, I think that was really cool to see Richard in victory lane with us, and it's a big deal. Richard Petty Motorsports is a great company, and we keep building and trying to make it better and stronger, and Kenny Francis is a huge part of that. So I'm happy driving cars that Kenny works on, that's for sure.

Q: There was five restarts there in the last 20 or so laps, and you had Stewart on your side every time. Knowing he's such a great road course racer, what was your strategy trying to hold him off?

KASEY KAHNE: My biggest thing was don't spin the tires, work on getting into Turn 1 there and just being beside him at the top of the hill and hopefully hold him off there. A few of the times we were able to jump the start and beat him into 1 no problem. So that was it was tough.

That new restart deal is tough. For the last three weeks I've been I think every weekend I've had some good ones and some bad ones as far as the restarts go. Today we were able to pick where we wanted to be, and it worked out really good for us, and we were able to hold him off.

But yeah, two to go, another restart, I was like, I can't believe this.

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by team owner Richard Petty. This is Petty's first trip to victory lane since 1999. That was John Andretti at Martinsville. If you can just open up and tell us what it's like to be back in the winner's circle.

RICHARD PETTY: It has been a long time, but when we joined with the Gillett crowd in the fall, I guess, or spring this year, wintertime, we knew they had a good team. So we just brought in three or four different people and trying to look at things different. But there's not a whole lot of changes. We've got the same cars and the same crews. You change a few people, but they've got a good organization.

It was a winning organization, and I happened to get involved in it, and hopefully we can make it a little bit better from time to time.

You know, after watching today and watching the guys run and having two other cars in the Top 10, this just really made us feel good because we've run good enough to win a couple or three races, but circumstances just haven't been on our side. Today it really looked bad to begin with because we got two of our cars, one of them had trouble and they had to come in the garage area, and the other two got a lap down, not no fault of their own, but it just happened. They was able to catch it back up and run 7th and 10th. So from Richard Petty Motorsports it was really a good day.

I think going in on Monday morning, I think all of us will be welcomed home a little bit more than what we have been for the last few weeks.

Q: Kasey, I think I heard you say a day or two ago that this sort of racing went against the grain of everything you sort of knew about being a race car driver and yet you held off one of the best road racers in the business. How did you do that?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, the way I learned how to race, I didn't do the go karts, I didn't do a lot of the road racing things or any of it. To me this is a lot different. But it's also my sixth year in the Cup Series driving these cars on this type of a course. You just learn, you get better. The experience is something that you can't beat.

I think that was the key to what we did today personally, just the experience and where I've been in the past and how I remembered things, mistakes that I've made and how to not make those mistakes today. To beat Tony, we had an unbelievable car. The Budweiser Dodge was really quick. The restarts we were able to hold him off.

The key spots, there's a couple spots on the track where you can pass really, 7 and 11, and if nobody makes a mistake, those are the spots you pass if you've got a quicker car. Well, I was really good leading up to those spots, and Tony was a little better in 11 but I was good all the way to 11 so he wasn't close enough. I worked on some of those spots throughout practice, and it just paid off today.

Q: For Kasey, as you say, your track record, at least coming into this weekend, might not have indicated you as a contender for the race, but do you feel like in the past it's just been some misfortune and that you've been getting progressively better, or has there been a particular turning point in terms of the road course experience and feeling like you've mastered it?

KASEY KAHNE: I haven't mastered it, I know that. I think I've definitely improved as a road course driver every year. This year we went to Road Atlanta, and I think my second lap was faster than second or third lap was faster than any lap we had ran all of last year. To me I think maybe I'm a little better because I can think about that stuff, but I think our cars are also better, working with Kenny and our whole Budweiser team.

There's a lot of things that go into any win on the Sprint Cup Series, and I think you need an awesome car. We've spun the tires really bad here in the past. We didn't do that today. The tires were under the car throughout the race, and it turned really well. I had no brake issues today, and we've had brake issues in the past.

I don't know if it's driving, the car handling better, you don't use as much brakes, that kind of stuff, but everything really played in our favor today, and that's why we're sitting here.

Q: How many different types of restarts did you have in your pocket, and was the last one the slowest one?

KASEY KAHNE: Actually I don't remember the last one. There was about four or five there, and I was just trying to think of ways to get the start. My car's first gear was better than Tony's and I was able to get to the throttle quick. Do not spin the tires, how can I not spin the tires, and I had the lane choice, and that lane choice was the spot to be for us.

I didn't spin the tires.  I think that was key.  If I was going slow on that
final one, I didn't even know it.  It was just the way it happened.

Q: Can you talk a little bit about obviously last year's race was disappointing. How much more confidence did the qualifying effort and also yesterday's practice give you going into today?

KASEY KAHNE: Well, the qualifying was key to starting up front, having a good pit stall, which the pit stall isn't really critical here because everybody pits at different times it seems like.

But you just feel good at the end of Friday, and the team feels good. We went into yesterday, we made a lot of little adjustments throughout practice, and our final run on the racetrack was our best run, and I was really comfortable with what the car was doing for about seven straight laps, and practice got over and we didn't make a change. And today we didn't make a change throughout the race. It was just having a really good car, hitting on it right at the end of practice and running that throughout today.

Q: You've gone through a lot over the last even the six months that you've been with RPM or I guess regrouped with RPM. There's been a lot with Dodge, you guys fired your CEO, all kinds of little things to get to this point and the recent layoffs. When you pull everything together, do you feel like it's just a tighter, stronger organization?

RICHARD PETTY: You know, I hope it is. That's what we set out to try to accomplish. But it was one of those days. Everything fell together, okay. The car was good, the crew was good, they made really good strategy on making their pit stops, the whole deal. And it was one of those picture perfect days. They did everything exactly what they needed to do to win the race.

You get maybe three or four of those chances a year, that's really you might win more races than that, but a lot of times you've got to overcome other circumstances. But they had everything lined up. You know, what can you say; when everything goes right, and that's basically what it was today. Hopefully it's the beginning of something else, but it's just another day. We've got to get ready now and go to New Hampshire and back this one up.

Q: But you had three cars in the Top 10, so it wasn't a fluke for the organization. The organization was strong.

RICHARD PETTY: The cars were good. They come off the trailer pretty good, all four of them, and they practiced good. A couple of them didn't qualify too good, but it was one of the better probably the best race that we've been to as far as all four cars working together. You know, I don't know what kind of setups they had. They probably had it a little bit different. But the basic cars were all the same cars.

A couple of them, they got a lap down and was able to make the lap up and then was able to drive up through the crowd. Of all year long, probably this was the best our cars have been as far as being equal to each other.

Q: Richard, do you have the same feeling of accomplishment as you did ten years ago, or is this kind of win No. 1 and new life?

RICHARD PETTY: I guess this is win No. 1. Really I'm involved, but I am not as involved as I was when we used to have the place at Level Cross, North Carolina. And then when we moved to Morrisville last year, it kind of got away from it. Moved over here to Statesville, and it's a little bit different territory because they already had everything, the system in place. They've changed a few, or we have changed a few of the systems, but the basic deal is just a continuation of what they've been doing.

After you look at today, it looks like they've been doing pretty much what they needed to do. Again, this is just one race. So now we've got to go back and say what did we do, did we do anything different, and if we did we've got to do this again next week.

Q: Do you feel as much a part of this as you did the ones ten years ago?

RICHARD PETTY: Yeah, oh, yeah. It's the kind of a deal that after I quit driving in '92 then I was not involved in the cars near as much, and over a period of years you got to be more of an owner than you was a mechanical deal or telling the drivers what to do or whatever. So you'd usually give it up to the crew chiefs and the drivers to do what they want. They can go to the engineers, figure out what it is. So all they want me to do is bring in money so they can go racing (laughter).

Q: Kenny, you were trying to get him calmed down, I guess, because I never heard Kasey on the radio, I just heard you telling him not to mirror drive, to watch his marks, to keep the tires. Was that just the big thing today because neither one of you really expected to be in this position because you didn't even know where victory lane was? I mean, was that what you were looking to do at the end?

KENNY FRANCIS: Well, there's so many factors that go into this, but one thing, I was trying to keep myself calm because I didn't want to get excited and get him excited and get him to make a mistake. We were leading the race at Darlington, I don't know, about six races ago, and I noticed myself getting kind of excited and kind of I thought, man, I've won a lot of these races, I shouldn't be acting this way. Today I was really making a real conscious effort to remain calm and just try to be level and keep him calm and keep him focused.

Like I say, there's so many factors that go into this from the fuel mileage and the tires and stuff like that, but we were we weren't very confident going into the race because of the fuel mileage situation, and we kind of worked on it all through practice and couldn't get it sorted out.

You know, the motor guys had a really great package, and like he said a minute ago, the thing really pulled good and didn't spin the tires and stuff, but they had to really put their heads together, Bill Pink and Tommy Chandler and Mark McArdle came in overnight and completely rebuilt the carburetor. We hit our number we were looking to hit on our fuel mileage, and I think if we hadn't we might have been in big trouble. Stewart and them only made it by a lap before they were in trouble on the last caution that came out.

If we hadn't have got our carburetor right, we wouldn't be sitting here today. You've got to put a big kudos to the behind the scenes guys that made that happen.

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers John Andretti , Richard Petty
Teams Richard Petty Motorsports