Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed where he is in points with four races remaining before the Chase, how he feels the speeds will be this weekend and more.
TALK ABOUT WHERE YOU SIT RIGHT NOW AS FAR AS THE CHASE IS CONCERNED AND HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT COMING IN THIS WEEK TO MICHIGAN. “We’re still in a pretty good spot from where we’ve been this season. It’s definitely going to go all the way to Richmond I would say as far as who is going to be the wildcard. Right now I feel pretty good about where we are at if we can just keep running well. We got through last weekend’s race without too big of a loss in points or anything like that. We battled a lot last week with some things thrown at us and we were able to still run 13th and were up to 11th around the final laps. I think we’re doing pretty well and that was my toughest track. I enjoy Michigan, and I’m glad we’re back here. We did the tire test here three weeks ago and felt like that tire was an improvement from what we had the first race. I think the track will keep improving also with the wear and tear from this summer and the rubber on the race track. So, it’s a weekend that I’ve been looking forward to so we can run really well.”
WHAT’S YOUR EDUCATED GUESS TO HOW THE SPEEDS MIGHT BE DIFFERENT FROM JUNE? “The trucks have already went this morning so there will be a little bit of rubber. We’ll keep putting rubber down and I think the track will keep getting faster throughout the first practice. I don’t see qualifying being as fast as what it was the first race, but it’s hard to say. I would say the track should be a little bit slower, but the tires are a touch better too. I would say qualifying will be slower for sure, and then the race speeds will slow down once we get racing. The biggest thing to me is just being able to move around. That first race there was about one and a half lanes that you could really get in and push your car and not have it not jump into the gray area or anything like that. Hopefully this race will get at least two lanes, maybe even three as time goes on.”
FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE IN BEING IN MEETINGS WITH DALE (EARNHARDT) WHAT IMPACT DID YOU SEE THAT VICTORY HE HAD LAST TIME WE WERE HERE, WHAT IMPACT DID THAT HAVE ON HIM? “To me Dale has been really focused and really into everything that I have been part of this season with him, from our debriefs to when we have a commitment we are doing together. He’s into the racing thing as much as I’ve seen him. I haven’t been really close with Dale over the years, but I’ve known him and been friends with him. I think he’s as passionate and into the racing as I’ve seen him right now so that’s good to see. After he won, to me I just saw that he was excited and happy about what happened, and happy that they finished the deal and were the dominate car that day. Nobody was even close to him. So, I think that gave a lot of confidence to him and his team and they felt really good about it. So I would say just a little bit happier back to winning. It had been a little while so he felt good about it. All of our guys were excited for him too. He was at the shop and we were all kind of hanging out and laughing and having fun with him. It was just a confidence builder, is what I would say.”
IF YOU MAKE THE CHASE AND IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE IN GOOD POSITION TO DO SO, DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR TWO TEAMMATES TWO OF YOUR BIGGEST THREATS TO WIN THE TITLE? CAN JUNIOR (DALE EARNHARDT, JR) BE A LEGITIMATE TITLE CONTENDER? “Even if Jeff (Gordon) makes it and myself, it will be tough for all four of us to make it, but we definitely all four can. We just have to see how these final four (races) play out. But, I think any one of those teams can be really strong in the Chase and show a lot of consistency and be there to win races. You’ll need to do both of those things if you want to win the championship from what we’ve seen in the past. I would say Dale, as consistent as those guys have been this year, as confident, and as well as they are working with the No. 48, between those groups I could see the No. 88 running strong throughout the whole Chase and have an opportunity to win it. All the Hendrick cars can be in that scenario if things go the way that we are all shooting for.”
OBVIOUSLY YOU STILL HAVE KENNY (FRANCIS, CREW CHIEF) AND ALL THAT, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE IN YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE WITH THIS RIDE THAN PREVIOUS RIDES? “I think personally there’s not a ton that is different. I feel like you are held to a little higher standard over there at times with certain situations we may be involved in. Our meetings are mandatory, where in the past they haven’t been mandatory for me. To know this is what you are doing on this day throughout the entire season, so there are a few things there that are definitely mandatory and definitely you know what’s going on. Other than that, I would say the day-to-day sponsor commitments, and how I’m into the racing side of things. What I do away from the track when I don’t have to do the racing stuff, I would say is pretty similar to how it’s been I the past.”
NOW THAT YOU GUYS ARE LOOKING LIKE IT WOULD BE HARD TO FALL OUT OF THE CHASE AT THIS POINT, CAN YOU PUT ASIDE CARS OR MAYBE JUST FOCUS ON THE FINAL 10 RACES VERSES THE NEXT FOUR RACES? “Well myself, I don’t feel like I’m locked in. I don’t feel like I’m really even that close to being locked in because of how quickly things can change in this sport. Two guys get on a roll and we fall off, we can be third no problem pretty quick. So, there’s a lot of scenarios that can keep us out of the wild card. I don’t really feel like we are there. Even if we were there I feel like these final four (races) is a good time for us to keep … since the start of the season I feel like every three or four weeks we make a gain together as a team and these final three or four races is another opportunity for us to get better together. If we can do that, hopefully we will be in a great spot when those final 10 (races) start and be able to battle. I don’t know if we are there yet, so I really feel like we need to bring our best stuff all the way through Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. Those are some of my favorite tracks where we can build some confidence and some momentum and just start off those final 10 (races) with a better game plan and more momentum.”
IS IT A LITTLE BIT OF A BALANCING ACT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO LEAVE SOME ROOM FOR A LITTLE BIT OF IMPROVEMENT? “Yeah, I’ve seen that in the past for certain teams and how they’ve done that and it’s worked out really well for them. But, I don’t think we are there yet. I feel like we’re still so new together a lot of our guys and myself being at HMS (Hendrick Motorsports), I don’t feel like we have any time to not put our best stuff on the race track and just go from there. If that doesn’t work, it doesn’t work but I feel like we need to keep bringing it every week.”