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Interview With Kasey Kahne, Winner of The Food City 500 at Bristol

Congratulations on winning here at Bristol Motor Speedway.  You jumped seven spots in the points standings today.  You’re up to seventh.  Quite a day.  Certainly coming off last week’s performance, you could have won out there at Las Vegas, too.

KASEY KAHNE:  Feels really good to win at this place.  Such a tough track over the years. My first time here in 2002 was just something I couldn’t believe the way that you drove, as hard as you drove here, the way things happen so quickly.  To win a Sprint Cup race here feels really good.

We had an awesome Great Clips Chevy SS throughout the race.  The pit calls were perfect. The pit crew did a really good job with pit stops.  Was able to race hard the whole race.  It worked out for us.

Feels really good to get in Victory Lane and get our first Sprint Cup win early in the season.

Q:  Kenny Francis, talk about how this team performed this weekend. Certainly off to a good start in 2013.

KENNY FRANCIS:  Yeah, seems like we’ve had good cars every week.  Almost pulled one off last week at Las Vegas.  To get the win here at Bristol is pretty cool.

We had a pretty good car all weekend.  We started off Friday a little bit off the pace, missed it just a little bit, but we ended up rebounding for qualifying.  That set the tone for today.  Had good track position all day.  Key to that was qualifying, having good pit stops all day.

I felt like from where we were sitting the pit calls were fairly obvious what to do.  We maintained our track position, so that was good.  The car handled pretty good all weekend, handled really good in the race.  So fortunately we came out on top when it counted.

 

Q.  Kasey, four races so far.  36th, 19th, 2nd and 1st.  After the first two, were you concerned you were having a similar start to last season?

KASEY KAHNE:  Yeah, it actually seemed really similar to the start of last year, those first two.  Had two great cars at Daytona and Phoenix.  Phoenix we kind of fell off a little bit.  Definitely had a good car at Daytona and we lost some points the first two.

Since Las Vegas, the test day went really well.  I thought we learned some things there, were able to put a really good weekend together, and again this weekend.

We’ve gained a lot of spots here in the last two weeks and feel really good about where we’re at, where our team’s at.  There was a lot that went on during the off-season to get a little bit better.  I felt like each one of us needed to get a touch better.  So far it’s all paying off.  The guys are doing an awesome job.

 

Q.  Do you think the last two weeks is more representative of the team?

KASEY KAHNE:  I would say so.  Just from each practice session, the preparation of the car prior to getting to the track, then qualifying.  We’ve been qualifying up front each week.  I think it’s all definitely going in the right direction.

The pit stops have been really good.  The guys are just nailing it on pit road.  It’s fun to come to pit road and break even or gain spots.

 

Q.  Kasey, all this talk the last couple years of good Bristol, bad Bristol.  That sequence with you and Keselowski was crazy.  Walk me through that.  It seems like lap traffic was as much a part of that.

KASEY KAHNE:  Yeah, Brad got out to the lead there and it took my car a few laps to get going.  I reeled him in.  Just trying to make the pass.  He was driving into the corner so hard I couldn’t really do anything on the bottom or try any type of somewhat of a slide job or anything like that.  It was just trying to get momentum off the corner and make something happen on exit.

It took a while to do it.  I bumped him a few times.  He was sideways trying to hold us back.  I got the lead, then gave it right back in lap traffic two laps later.

Definitely I was mad at myself at that point in time.  About spun out off of two a few laps after that.  Had to calm down, get things going again.  Felt like we got a good restart that final restart, got to the lead.  From there it was just momentum and try to drive away.

 

Q.  Nerve-wracking?

KASEY KAHNE:  It wasn’t too nerve-wracking then with Brad.  It was how can I figure out how to get by.  The two of us were out front a little bit.  I was just trying to run a lot of scenarios through my head and make it work.  Finally it worked, got by.  But it took a while.  It was tough.  I mean, we were running as hard as we could.

 

Q.  How angry were you after last week and are you over it?  Listening to you on the radio after the race, you seemed really frustrated, the fact you had the best car and didn’t win.

KASEY KAHNE:  I was frustrated for like five seconds, then I went right from the angry moment to telling the guys how good they did, you know, that day, how well our weekend went, all of that.

I wasn’t too angry at all really.  I was mad that we gave a race away.  But there was really nothing we could do the way it all turned out and the damage that I had to the car from the restart. It was nobody’s fault.  It was just racing.  We had a great car all day.

I wasn’t mad at all.  I felt good Monday and all week.  I’m going to feel better tomorrow (smiling).

 

Q.  On the restart, Keselowski got shoved there.  He said his wheels were actually off the ground. Looked like the 11 and the 22 got into each other.  Were you aware of what was going on?  Were you aware of the skirmish they had in the garage afterwards?

KASEY KAHNE:  I could hear the crowd.  I had no clue what happened on that restart other than Brad took off a little bit and I had a good start, then he dropped.  I knew he spun his tires.  I don’t know how it all happened.  That’s all I can really say.  From there it was just trying to stay in front of him, get up high, get my momentum going.

Then I did hear the crowd, so I knew something was going on.  I saw Denny the last four laps going slow with some type of a problem so I thought he might be involved with what the crowd was yelling at after the race.  I haven’t seen anything else.  I’ll watch tonight for sure.  I’ll go back and check the highlights.

 

Q.  The 48 team started this year pretty much as well as they ended last year.  The finishes weren’t there for you the first couple weeks.  Is this now where you felt like you left off last year?  The first two races weren’t indicative.

KENNY FRANCIS:  I feel like we were fairly strong last year.  At Daytona we had a really good car, just got wiped out.  Nobody’s fault.  Just had a wreck.

Phoenix, we started off really good.  Had a really fast car.  We just got too loose and we didn’t really adjust hard enough fast enough, got back in traffic, couldn’t go anywhere.  We were just too loose.

I think if we had to do Phoenix over again, we would be a lot better off.  I think we know where we missed it, what we should do differently.  The tire was different.  Threw me for a loop.  It didn’t do what I thought it was supposed to do based on the last couple years.  Didn’t have enough built into the car to fix being loose.  I got a pretty good idea what we would do differently going back.

That was the same car we brought here.  It was a good car, we just missed it a little bit.

Vegas, we had a great run.  Probably the best run we’ve ever had at Vegas.  We’ve had a lot of good runs here.  We finally finished one off, so we’re proud of that.

I feel like it’s a great start to the year.  Hopefully we can keep building on the momentum we’ve established.

 

Q.  Do you feel like you could have won three of the first four races?

KASEY KAHNE:  Yeah, I thought we were really good at Daytona.  Car had a ton of speed. We could have been in that mix, but we didn’t get to that point in the race.

The last two weeks, we could have won definitely last week and had a great car again today.

 

Q.  Kasey, Charlie Daniels said earlier today his first race here at Bristol is going to let him scratch something off his bucket list.  Is this the kind of win for you that’s a bucket list win, means a lot to you?

KASEY KAHNE:  This is a big race for me.  I just feel like when you’re racing in the Sprint Cup Series, Bristol’s one of those tracks that as a driver you really feel like you need to win at, you want to win at.  There’s so many things that are thrown at you when you come to this place.

We’ve been trying a long time.  So to pull it off, I felt like it was a big accomplishment for our guys and myself.  Just feel really good about it.  Like Kenny said, we’ve been fast here other times and just not been able to finish the deal.  It’s a big confidence builder.  It feels really good to win at Bristol Motor Speedway.

 

Q.  Kenny, we saw a couple of drivers having problems with tires.  Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon.  Were you concerned a similar thing could happen to Kasey’s car?

KENNY FRANCIS:  Yeah, Tony, I think somebody got into him and cut his left rear.  He didn’t have much control over that.

There were a few right front failures, which is not uncommon here.  We’ve had our share over the years.  I tend to call the tire changes pretty conservatively.  I was pretty worried about the guys that took left side tires.  Most of those cases they had a problem.

I don’t mean to second guess anyone for the way they call their race, but I consciously didn’t do that because I have been through that before.

My philosophy on this place is the tires will make a fuel run and anything beyond a fuel run you’re taking your chances.  When the 24 had his problems, it was beyond the normal laps of a normal fuel run.

The other problem that compounds that, over the years what I’ve learned, the more restarts you have on a right side tire on a track like this, high-bank, here, Dover is another one it used to happen at, the more potential you have to have a problem because when you restart on it it’s at low pressure, it’s not as durable at low pressure as it is after the pressure builds up.  If you have multiple starts on a right side tire, you have to watch out.

I hate it that guys have problems, but we consciously called the race to avoid that type of problem.

 

Q.  Kasey, after a lot of pretty tight racing most of the day, once you got the lead on the restart, you sprinted away from everybody.  Was your car that good or…

KASEY KAHNE:  I think our car was just that good.  There were points in the race when we were able to do that earlier on also.  I felt like we just had a really good car.  I just needed to get to the front, get some clean air, try to get away from the guys.

Once I got to probably 10 laps to go, I could see where Kyle was and Brad, see the lap cars I was catching, just try to keep that gap for the final 10 laps, take care of my stuff just in case we had a green-white-checkered.  I wanted to have the best tires we had at that point.

I think it was just the car.  It was fast.  I was able to get away and kind of control the race from there.

 

Q.  Y’all have now been to four dramatically different types of racetracks with the new car.  Did you learn anything today that will carry forward or had you learned everything you were going to learn the first three weekends and today maybe not quite so much?

KENNY FRANCIS:  I don’t know.  For me I’ll have to reflect on it some.  But really this track is very unique.  I don’t know that much you do here applies elsewhere.  It’s a short track that’s got high banks, so the aerodynamics don’t really play into it because the majority of your load on the tires is from the banking.

It’s all about turn the middle, forward drive.  It’s a unique track just the way it’s set up.  So I don’t know if there’s a lot that applies.  The setup we run here is radically different than anything we run at any other track.

I don’t know.  I’m not sure if there’s a whole lot.  There might be one or two small things that would apply.

What do you think?

KASEY KAHNE:  I think just driving-wise, you know, Bristol is Bristol.  This place races similar, drives similar.  Like Kenny was saying, there’s a couple things you work on with your car to make it right.  Last week in Las Vegas, that was a good chance for us to see how the Gen-6 car will race on a mile-and-a-half with the same tire we ran last year.  I was real happy with it, being able to move around on the racetrack, as hard as you could drive.  Phoenix had a different tire and a different car.  That was tough to say exactly.  But you race that track different as well.  Daytona, too.

Each track so far you definitely have to drive differently, set the cars up differently.  I’ve been pretty pleased.  I think the last two weeks our cars have really driven really well, the engines. Everybody at HMS is preparing and giving us great racecars.

 

Q.  Kenny, the same problem of melted beads as far as the tires, same problem as Phoenix.  What will teams do to correct that?  Do you have to change tires more often, less camber?

KENNY FRANCIS:  I didn’t see any of the tires today.  I don’t think they were melted beads. I’ve personally done it a number of times here, had right front sidewall failures.  They wouldn’t be necessarily what I would call a melted bead.

But the problem here is it’s just so much load, it’s such an aggressive turn.  Like I said earlier, I feel like the tire will run a full fuel run.  When you try to push it beyond that, it’s questionable. There’s only so much that Goodyear can do.  I think you’ve got to consider that.

In working with Goodyear over the years, with Rick Campbell in particular, he’s very open about helping you, helping you understand what’s going on with the tire, how to manage it.  These cars weigh a lot, they go really fast, there’s a lot of load.  It’s all about managing the setup around the tire.

At Phoenix, I think you’re right, I think they were melted beads.  I think that’s self-induced.  I think there’s things you can do to prevent that.  I believe the teams that had that happen are actively fixing it right now because there’s a lot of teams that ran Phoenix that didn’t have a single problem.

It’s definitely something that you’ve got to consider at particular tracks.  Martinsville is another one, completely different application that you have to be thinking about what you’re doing, make sure you don’t have a problem.

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Posted by on March 18, 2013. Filed under Breaking News,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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