With Kasey Kahne mired back in the Chase basement, 13th and last among Chase drivers, 78 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, the idea of Kahne making a comeback in the form of a championship run is a monumental long shot. But that doesn’t mean that Kahne has given up on his season. This weekend, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Kansas Speedway for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. Kahne has four-consecutive top-10 finishes at Kansas Speedway and has a solid record at the next track on the schedule, Charlotte Motor Speedway. So Kahne’s looking forward to the races ahead.
Earlier this week, Kahne participated in a NASCAR weekly teleconference to discuss his season, so far, and the season that remains. Here’s what he had to say:
Q. With two of your best tracks coming up at Kansas and Charlotte, is this a time when you think you can make a comeback in the championship hunt?
KASEY KAHNE: I think it’s a stretch where we can run well. They’re a couple tracks that we’ve been able to run up front at every time we go to them. Looking forward to that. Just trying to get back on track, finishing up the season strong.
I feel like the leaders in the points, they’re kind of in their own race. We’ll just do what we can to finish off our year, and hopefully we can get a win or two at some of our best racetracks.
Q. With this new tire at Kansas, what is your prediction on how it’s going to perform on a newer racing surface?
KASEY KAHNE: I guess that’s why we’re going Thursday for some laps, try to see how it performs, how it holds up. It will be interesting. I thought it worked fine at Atlanta. Hopefully here it will work good, too.
That tire we were on at the start of the year was just really hard and didn’t wear out a lot. There were a lot of two-tire stops you would do. I would imagine this would be similar just with the fresh surface, a lot of load in the tires. You know the right side is going to be really hard.
I would think it would be pretty close to what we raced. Hopefully it wears out more. We’ll have to slow down on runs, like what they’re trying to shoot for. I don’t know if it will or not. I would think it will be real similar to what we had.
Q. Do you think we will start to see lap times begin to fall off this weekend or has it just not reached that stage yet when you were last on it in April?
KASEY KAHNE: Kansas City is a pretty tough area, part of the country. The weather is cold and hot, things like that. A lot of heat and real cold. If not this one, it will definitely be the next one, I would think.
The temperatures are going to be really cool on Sunday, so there probably won’t be quite as much falloff. You’ll still have a lot of heat in the tires, you’ll start slowing down some. If you have a good handle on the car, you’ll be able to drive by the other guys. The track is really wide. I think Kansas is a great racetrack. Hopefully this weekend we’ll put on a great show.
Hopefully it will clear out with the sun and we’ll be able to move around quite a bit.
Q. What did you feel like your demeanor was or what was the feeling of the team going into Dover last week knowing you were so far behind in the Chase compared to the week earlier at New Hampshire?
KASEY KAHNE: It’s a bit different. I think once you realize your chances at a Sprint Cup are over with, it changes the feeling a little bit.
But, you know, the guys stepped up and they did a good job. We had a good car. Just a little problem throughout the race, so it didn’t go our way for a better result.
Still, to finish where we did with what we battled, it was a pretty respectable day. It will keep getting better. We have a strong team. We’ve been one of the best cars at times throughout the whole season. Hopefully we can hit on it again these last seven races and at least finish strong and get back in the top 10. I think at this point in time that would be a successful year for where we’re at right now.
Q. I assume there’s no good way to fall out of Chase contention. Do you view what happened at New Hampshire, at least you kind of did it to yourself rather than being circumstance, is there any sort of different feeling when it’s kind of self-inflicted?
KASEY KAHNE: I mean, there’s probably a different feeling. But I think the way I look at it is, you know, I’m the one that made the mistake. I feel bad for the guys on that front.
We work together all season long. Things happen, whether it’s to the car, driver error, a pit stop error. I mean, all those things happen. As long as you’re always together as a team during any of those things, you just recover and you move on.
When it’s not your season, it’s not your season. But I definitely take full responsibility and felt bad after screwing up and spinning there, taking us out of the Chase, yeah.
Q. Kasey, you certainly had your share of ups and downs this season. As far as those circumstances, it’s obviously a part of a racecar driver’s life, because you can’t win every time. Once you go through a big disappointment, does it make it easier on you after you recover from that to go forward?
KASEY KAHNE: I don’t think so. I think one of my biggest disappointments this year was the Darlington incident. I felt like going into the season I had a few goals, and one of them was to win Bristol, one was to win Darlington, one was to make the Chase. We got Bristol, and I had Darlington, but Kyle got me. That was disappointing, set you back. We recovered from that and moved on. Then something else happens, you recover and move on. I spun at New Hampshire. Recover and move on.
I think they’re all about the same. I don’t know, you just want to run better. It’s been a tough season all year really. As soon as you start feeling good, something happens.
Q. Although it’s not very likely, come Talladega, there is a potential that the top three guys could be in one crash. Does that change your strategy at all or you just go race after race?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, race after race. There’s a possibility I’ll hit something there, too.
Q. Obviously you’ve raced in different series, different points systems. When you look at the Chase, Dale Jr. is eliminated, Logano is eliminated, you’re eliminated, is it time to look at something different with the points? Is there anything that can be done? If you’re trying to help people who have mistakes early in the Chase, is that monkeying around too much with the points system, and essentially the Chase should be about the strongest survive?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I like the fact that 12 and sometimes 13 drivers get to start the Chase and have a chance to win a championship with 10 races to go after a lot of things can go on. We had a lot of ups and downs, but we had a lot of really strong races, so we made the Chase. Then we have a chance to win the Sprint Cup. I like that side of it. I like how NASCAR has done that. I hope they keep that around. It just opens up for the final 10 races.
Once you get in those final 10, if you keep having an up-and-down year, you’re not going to win a championship. If you can pull it together, you can have a shot.
Q. There shouldn’t be a way to rescue teams that have problems early in the Chase?
KASEY KAHNE: No. At that point you’re just controlling it way too much. At some point consistency and winning races and running up front week after week, at some point that has to come into play. You get your Sprint Cup champion from that. You can’t (indiscernible) things four times in 10 races and still have a chance to win a Sprint Cup.
Q. Kasey, can you talk about your upcoming 5 Kahne 5K race.
KASEY KAHNE: Sunday morning, October 13th, at 10 a.m., right after the Charlotte race, two weeks from now, we’re looking forward to having our fourth 5K, starting at the Hall of Fame, ending at the Hall of Fame, running 3.1 miles. It’s been growing each year. It’s been cool to watch it grow, watch the people come out and really enjoy themselves, get a good run in in the morning, hang out. We have Great Clips there cutting hair. There’s different prizes. There’s a kids’ race after the 5K is over. It’s a cool day. I enjoy it. I hope a lot of people come out and enjoy it again. You can got to KaseyKahneFoundation.org and sign up.
Sunday morning after Charlotte weekend, October 13th, it’s going to be a good time.
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR