CHARLOTTE, NC (May 19, 2003)--Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 38 Great Clips Ford, entered the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series season with great optimism, yet uncertainty.
After competing in 20 races for Robert Yates Racing in 2002, Kahne had only one top-10 finish under his belt, which didn't meet goals the 23-year-old driver had placed on himself. During the offseason, Kahne signed with Akins Motorsports to compete in a full Busch Series schedule in 2003 with Great Clips as his sponsor.
After his limited run in 2002, many people wondered--was this former USAC midget series champion ready for NASCAR?
"I was ready to compete in NASCAR," said Kahne. "Ford Racing was critical in getting me into this type of racing and I jumped at the opportunity. I love to race--that's the bottom line. I would probably race anything that I had the chance to race in.
"I had a great opportunity to get my foot in the door with Robert Yates Racing, and now with Akins Motorsports, I'm progressing each week. I'm getting more familiar with the tracks and I think we have a chance to get to victory lane a couple times this year.
"Great Clips has been extremely supportive of me this season as I continue to learn in these cars. NASCAR is a different type of racing than what I grew up on, but you can look at the successes of drivers like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and see that although the racing styles are different, the on-track experience is measureless. Both of those guys have proven that.
"Because of my past racing background, I'm able to transfer some notes to our Busch races. There are tracks such as Nazareth that are night-and-day different from Busch cars to sprint cars, so unfortunately my notes don't help too much. However, when the actual on-track notes don't transfer, it's been helpful to at least have a familiarity with the track layout."
Echoing Kahne's determination and desire to race is The Ford Motor Company who recruited him to race in the NASCAR Busch Series.
"Kasey Kahne is the type of person who reflects our approach at Ford Racing. He is a pure racer," said Greg Specht, manager of Ford Racing Operations. "Kasey offers great potential for our program as we enter our second 100 years at Ford Racing."
In addition to his diverse racing notes, another night-and-day difference for Kahne has been his 2002 and 2003 statistics. Although posting only one top-10 start and one top-10 finish last year, this season, he has qualified in the top 10 in nine of the 12 Busch Series events this season. In addition, he has three top-10 finishes and one top-five finish and sits 12th in the NASCAR Busch Series point standings.
"I didn't realize I had qualified in the top 10 for nine races," said Kahne. "That's pretty cool. I have always liked qualifying. You put everything on the line for those two laps and you give it all you've got. Now that I think about it, I guess I have always qualified well in my sprint and midget cars also. Hopefully I can keep the streak going for the rest of the season and get a Bud pole for Great Clips."
Qualified well he has-well qualified he is.