Q. Kasey has won the Coca‑Cola 600 three times. I believe he’s a four‑time winner here at Charlotte Motor Speedway, won the All‑Star Race, as well, Sprint All‑Star Race. I believe you did that ‑‑ you came out of the fan vote that year, didn’t you?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah.
Q : You had the opportunity to win that race last week in the last segment there, but you’re coming to Charlotte now to get your fourth win in this prestigious race, certainly one of the top races in our series. What would that mean if you could get number four?
KASEY KAHNE: It would mean a lot. I felt like we were pretty close last week, so we have a lot to work on, some things to work on Saturday to be better prepared for the long race, and I just think that the big thing here is having a car that’s capable of making changes throughout the race and making sure that those last 100 laps you’re getting yourself in position and you have the car where you want it by then. So it’s kind of ‑‑ I actually really enjoy the 600, having a lot of time to work on it and trying to figure out where you’re at and where you need to be and just kind of going through the steps. This is a lot of fun for me this weekend. Hendrick Motorsports is really good here, so I imagine all the guys will be really good, Jimmie coming off the All‑Star last week, should be an exciting race.
Q. You were the last driver to pull off the May sweep here, winning the All‑Star Race and the 600; that was in 2008. The significance of that in your opinion, how hard it is to do, as well, as Jimmie Johnson tries to do it this year?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think it’s a big deal to win two big races in two straight weekends, consecutive weekends. It’s a big deal. It felt great doing it. Jimmie was ‑‑ he’ll be tough. He’ll be one of the guys to beat for sure on Sunday afternoon.
I think you have to change things up a little bit from the All‑Star Race to this weekend to make sure you keep up with the track, but a lot of the things that he did last week will work. I feel like he’s going to be the main competition come the last 100 laps.
Q. There’s a theory that after Charlotte at the end of May that you know what your team has got in terms of contender status. What has your team got in terms of contender status?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I feel like we have a really strong team. We’ve came a long ways. I think our cars are great, the engines run awesome, so it’s ‑‑ there’s just a lot of little things that go along with it. But yeah, I feel like we’re capable of winning Sunday night. I know the pit crew is ‑‑ they had one of the best stops there of the whole night last week when the pressure was on, so all those things add up, and that’s what we’re working on. We want to be in that Chase. We want to make it in there clean and then put the best 10 races we can late in the year together. That’s what everyone wants to do.
But yeah, I think winning Charlotte, I think running up front in Charlotte, those races, the 600, that tells a lot about where your guys are at and where you’re headed for the next half of the season.
Q : Speaking of this race, you’ve won it three times. If you win it again you would rank second all‑time, right behind Darrell Waltrip. He won five Coca‑Cola 600s, and you, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson have won three, so that’s pretty elite company there.
Q. This is kind of a two‑part question. Can you tell me the first memory you have from racing at Charlotte and what that was like, and second of all, if you would talk a little bit about what it means and how it helps you at this track and at other tracks to also run in the Nationwide Series before the Cup race.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, for myself the first memory was I came here in 2002 with Robert Yates, driving for Robert Yates in the 98 blue car, and it was ‑‑ I was trying to figure it out. We came to test and David Green was helping me, and it was just kind of a wild track, something I’d never been a part of. I’d watched races here and remembered that, but I had never driven on a track like this. So it was kind of my first mile‑and‑a‑half, so that was really eye opening on how you get around this track. That race was definitely not one of my better ones.
That was kind of my first memory, and I think the Nationwide race on Saturday, I don’t know really how much it helps. I personally feel like it’s hot usually, hot and sunny, you slide around a lot, it’s short, so there’s so many things that are not similar to the 600, and I do it because I enjoy that kind of racing all weekend long and being part of racing on Memorial Day weekend. But I don’t really think it helps you with the 600 at all.
Q. As well as you’ve done at the 600, I wonder if you could talk about embracing the duration of the race, how it’s different than other races are and sort of is there anything in particular you need to do differently, and the other thing I was curious about is you’ve been with your crew chief a long time, longer than most drivers have been. What sort of advantage do you have in the fact that you guys have been together for so long and obviously must know each other so well.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think for whatever reason, longer races for me, I feel like I’ve done a little better in over the years, 500‑mile races, 600 miles, and it gives you more time to work on your car, gives you more time to kind of fine‑tune and get it as perfect as you can for those last 50 to 100 miles. So yeah, I’ve always really liked the longer races. There’s times when you wish the race was over because it gets so long. But for whatever reason the 600 has always been one of my favorite races and I just think because there’s a lot of communication going on where you need a good crew chief and good engineer. People are going to listen and work with you and understand what you’re saying, and I have that with Kenny and Keith. We have a good combination to get the car better and better throughout the race, and I think that’s what it’s all about is the communication in the 600 and having a car that’s capable of making a lot of little adjustments to make it right for the very end.
Q. Why do you think you guys have stuck together so long?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I’d say we’re both pretty ‑‑ just kind of mellow and just kind of understand ‑‑ like I understand what he puts into the sport, I understand what he puts into the 5 car, into Hendrick Motorsports, and there would be really no one else I would want to work with than Kenny. Because we’re kind of mild‑mannered we get along really well and we don’t ‑‑ we just understand each other, no reason to yell and scream at each other. We work things through kind of up front and figure it out and move on. I don’t know, I think we both have a lot of respect for each other is a big part of it.
Q. How would you describe Jimmie Johnson’s career?
KASEY KAHNE: I think ‑‑ I mean, that’s a serious question. That guy is ‑‑ for as short a period of time that he’s been in the Sprint Cup Series and as much as he’s done, I mean, it’s just kind of ‑‑ he’s my teammate now and I know my cars are just as good as his and I have just as good of engine and people and all the stuff, and he figures out how to win so often and championships and do it week after week and so consistent and fast when it counts. I mean, it’s pretty amazing to me what he’s done, what he’s accomplished and how much more he’s going to do before it’s over, before he decides to step out of the sport.
I mean, I don’t know, as long as I’ve been in racing I’ve never seen anybody like it and I’ve been in a lot of different series of racing and had great competition and not so good a competition at times, but Jimmie is just right on top of it at all times. I mean, it’s ‑‑ he’s a guy that you shoot for. Everybody here shoots for him every week because you know he’s going to be one of the guys to beat.
Q. To follow up on that, before you were teammates with Jimmie, you said you had the equipment, everything the same. Before you were teammates with Jimmie and the success that he had, did you think it was something else, that he was winning because he had some kind of advantage?
KASEY KAHNE: I’ve always ‑‑ I always knew he was in a great situation, had really good people around him. Him and Chad worked through things really well, whether they were not happy with each other or happy with each other, they always worked through things really well and you could see that from the outside. But I knew he was really, really good. I mean, I knew who his teammates were, and as dominant as he’s been at HMS, I always had a ton of respect for him since it started. We beat him a couple times when we were on other teams, but it was really difficult and it still is being on his team. So I wouldn’t say that it’s a huge difference. I just think that they really can step up and really put that package together and then he takes it to another level. I think he’s really good at figuring out how to make the best out of what he has every week.
Q. As somebody who’s worked with a lot of different bosses, I was curious what’s distinctive about the Hendrick operation to you now that you’ve had a chance to be around it for a while?
KASEY KAHNE: I think it starts with just how Mr. H treats people from the top, every single person there and the management people, all the competition side, everybody that I work with treats everybody with respect, and that starts from Mr. H, and you don’t have that everywhere you go. You know, there’s ‑‑ he actually to me cares about every single person at Hendrick Motorsports, and I’ve been plenty of places where they ‑‑ I don’t know, you just worry as much about some of the guys or something, and I really feel like he worries so much about every person there so that the whole company is ran that way. When he’s not around for a week and he’s doing other things, it’s still ran the exact same way, and that’s all from him and what he puts into it and his passion he has for racing and for winning.