This Week in Ford Racing February 25, 2003 NASCAR Busch Grand National Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 38 Great ClipsTaurus, is hoping that his performance this year in the NASCAR Busch Series will eliminate the memories of a tumultuous rookie...
This Week in Ford Racing
February 25, 2003
NASCAR Busch Grand National
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 38 Great ClipsTaurus, is hoping that his performance this year in the NASCAR Busch Series will eliminate the memories of a tumultuous rookie season. Just two races into the 2003 season, Kahne has already surpassed his previous career best marks for qualifying and race finishes. Kahne followed up a ninth-place finish in season opener at Daytona with fourth-place qualifying effort last weekend at North Carolina Speedway, and was well on his way to another top-10 finish in the Rockingham 200 when an alternator problem forced him into the pits for four laps. Still, the 22-year-old Washington State native sits in 12th-place in the point standings heading into this weekend's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and remains upbeat for what lies ahead in his fist full-time season in the series.
KASEY KAHNE-38-Great Clips Ford Taurus
DISCUSS THE TRANSITION FROM OPEN-WHEEL RACING TO STOCK CAR RACING. HAS IT BEEN HARDER THAN YOU EXPECTED?
"It's had it ups and downs. Last year, at times it seemed like things were going pretty well and things were getting better, but then it would go back to how it was at the start of the year. I wondered for a while what the deal was and why we didn't improve as much as I thought we should have been improving. So far this year, everything has been going a lot better and I think having a lot more laps and a lot more experience in these types of cars than I did last year and just working with the entire Great Clips team has helped out a ton. The communication between me as a driver and the team has been marked with improvement as well. To be able to talk to Wes Ward (crew chief) and to get a response and an explanation of what the changes are supposed to do to the handling of the car has helped my development. You can ask him something and he can answer it. He can tell you what's going on. I can pick his mind and he can tell me what the car is doing. I've learned a lot more so far this year by doing that and not just having somebody make changes to the car based off of my feedback without getting feedback in return. To have someone that has as much knowledge as Wes has helped me close the gap between open-wheel cars and stock cars. Last year, for every step forward we took, we seemed to take a step back just as quick and we never got any consistency going. Now, I think we're taking steps forward and with a veteran team like the one at Akins, we're not forgetting what works and we're building on each thing we learn."
YOU FOLLOWED UP YOUR BEST BUSCH SERIES FINISH - A NINTH-PLACE EFFORT AT DAYTONA - WITH YOUR BEST QUALIFYING EFFORT AT ROCKINGHAM LAST WEEKEND. HOW MUCH DOES CONFIDENCE PLAY A FACTOR IN BUILDING MOMENTUM IN RACING?
"Confidence is huge. You can get on a roll in open wheel just like you can get on a roll here. When you get on a roll, it just carries everybody - the team, the driver, the sponsor. I think it just gets everybody working together and you can't be successful in racing without a total team effort. You walk around a little happier, you're more excited and you don't question yourself. People sometimes forget that this is a team sport because the focus is usually just on the driver. When you're running well, you do what you should do and you don't question yourself and it seems to work out a lot better that way."
YOU STARTED YOUR RACING CAREER IN THE OPEN-WHEEL RANKS, BUT YOU MADE THE MOVE TO NASCAR WITH THE HELP OF FORD MOTOR COMPANY AND ITS DRIVER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM. DID YOU EVER QUESTION THE MOVE TO NASCAR LAST SEASON?
"I never questioned it once. I had a lot of success in the open-wheel cars and I still enjoy watching open wheel, but those were feeder systems as well. I still enjoy that racing and hope that I get another shot to drive an Indy car, but I've never questioned coming to NASCAR, not at all. That was probably the best decision that we've made, myself and Ford together. It's been awesome to work with Dan Davis and Greg Specht because these are two guys that whatever they've told me they'd do, they've done. It's pretty nice when all you have to worry about is driving the cars and learning as much as you can without worrying about where your next ride might be. It's nice having such a big organization behind you that can actually tell you something and then back it up. That's been the biggest constant in my career to date."
DID YOU FEEL ADDITIONAL PRESSURE TO PERFORM LAST YEAR BECAUSE OF THE TIES YOU HAVE TO FORD?
"I think so. I know that they've always got their eyes on what is going on here. Last year, I put a lot of pressure on myself and then to be joined to a team like Robert Yates Racing, as big as he is and his teams are, Dan Davis and Edsel Ford getting me that chance was pretty huge. I did whatever I could. I tried everything to make that deal work. I tried to learn as much as I could as quick as I could, but the results weren't where I wanted them and they weren't where Robert wanted them; they weren't where anybody wanted them. But, there was a huge learning curve and I learned a lot of good things and I learned a lot of bad things too that you take with you. I think getting some of the worse things done and over with in the first year opens the door for this year not to have as many problems."
WITH YOUR OPEN-WHEEL BACKGROUND, DO YOU COMPARE YOUR DEVELOPMENT TO THE LIKES OF JEFF GORDON AND TONY STEWART?
"I can look at my results and look at what they did as the point in their careers and there are a lot of similarities in the things that we have done. It's pretty cool to be going up that same ladder that they did. By no means would I think I can do what they've done. Those are two of the best race-car drivers in the world, let alone in NASCAR. All I can expect is to keep progressing and keep following them as much as I can."
BOTH GORDON AND STEWART MOVED FROM THE BUSCH SERIES TO WINSTON CUP AFTER A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN IT'S TIME TO MOVE TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
"I'm not real sure, but I think that's something results will dictate. I had a half year last year in the Busch Series and if we get a full year this year with some good results and some more next year, probably the year after that we could be ready. It's hard to say. I know right now that I want to do well in Busch. I want to go for a championship and it probably won't be this year but maybe next year we'll be ready to go for a championship. That's something that neither of them did. They pretty much went right through Busch and up to Winston Cup and were basically on top of Winston Cup when they got there. I'm more up for going for a Busch championship before moving on."