KASEY KAHNE TAKES CHEVROLET SS TO VICTORY LANE AND MAKES THE CHASE
Team Chevy Takes Five of Top 10 Finishing Positions
Hampton, Ga. – (September 1, 2014) – Kasey Kahne led the last two laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Oral-B USA 500 to clinch a berth in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup with his first victory of the season. He led twice for 25 laps in his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet SS in route to his third victory at the 1.54-mile track and 17th win of his career. He joins Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. making it the third year in a row that all four Hendrick Motorsports teams have been in the final 10-race run for the title.
“Yeah, we are locked in and I hate it comes down to this – Atlanta or Richmond – just about every year for me,” said Kahne in Victory Lane. “Sometimes we are in, sometimes we are out. But thankful that now at HMS I have been in all three years now. We have the pressure all the way to Richmond, but we made it again, thankful for that. Thankful for Mr. H, Kenny Francis, Chris Spaulding, the guys did a nice job. Friday we started terrible, came back Saturday and ran really good, and then raced pretty well tonight at times. Glad we got those restarts because those were tough and that is where it paid off for sure.”
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion, Johnson brought his No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet SS home in fourth position. Danica Patrick, posted her NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career best finish of sixth in her No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS, which is the highest finishing position ever recorded by a female driver at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The previous record was held by Janet Guthrie (10th, March 19, 1978).
Ryan Newman, No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finished seventh. Newman remains ninth in the series standings with one race remaining until the cut-off to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kyle Larson, Rookie of the Year contender in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet SS, is also a strong candidate to earn a spot in the Chase with his eighth place finish.
Kevin Harvick who led from the pole and dominated the race by leading 195 laps in his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finished a disappointing 19th. He was involved in a late-race, multi-car accident.
Matt Kenseth (Toyota) finished second, Denny Hamlin (Toyota) was third and Carl Edwards (Ford) rounded out the top-five finishers.
The series moves to Richmond International Raceway next weekend September 6th to determine the final 16 driver field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT:
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMER’S INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS – RACE WINNER
KENNY FRANCIS, CREW CHIEF, AND RICK HENDRICK, TEAM OWNER
MODERATOR: We’re joined now by the team owner, Mr. Rick Hendrick of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet in tonight’s Oral-B USA 500 and by the race winning crew chief Mr. Kenny Francis. Gentlemen, congratulations. Very important win, obviously. Tell us a little bit about this evening.
KENNY FRANCIS: You want me to go? Yeah, it was an exciting race from my seat. We had a lot of up-and-downs, started off way too loose, and had to make some pretty big adjustments on the first pit stop, really helped the car a lot and he was able to make quite a bit of ground.
Got caught on pit road one time when the yellow came out and got a lap down had to do wave around and come from the back from that.
And then also we kind of had a not so good pit call where I stayed out probably should have pitted and lost some track position there.
So all-in-all, an up-and-down day as far as making some of the calls, and then we kind of got our car better. We went a little bit farther on those adjustments. We finally went too far and got it way too tight and had to back off of that some.
And that kind of was what helped us out at the end. And then we were fortunate on the way that last caution — or that caution played out.
That helped us get a little more track position. I think he had got up to about 5th or 6th and came out of the pits 3rd on that and that was a good spot to be in for us.
MODERATOR: Tell us, sir, what was going kind of through your mind as we were going through those green-white-checkered finishes there.
RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, the 4 car, Harvick, was so good and then when he and Kasey were racing each other and Kasey was able to pull away from him about a 10th of a lap, I thought we were in real good shape. But, when that first caution came out, it’s like you had to get two restarts.
We seemed to come up short on restarts at the end of the race. And Kasey did a heck of a job the last restart when he went through the middle. He started fifth and went through the middle. That was a race winning move.
Just glad to see these guys have some good luck. They have had a tough year, and Kenny’s made a lot of great calls there tonight. Got the car right, and Kasey. Something about Kasey when the sun goes down on a mile and a half track. So, we’re glad to go to Richmond and have them all in The Chase.
MODERATOR: Take questions.
Q. In Victory Lane you had, well you had Kasey and you had Dale and you had actually, all four drivers in there. I’m sure you had some good times or good feelings in your career. How did it feel to have all four of them there together?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, that really was special to see them, all three of them come to Victory Lane to celebrate and congratulate Kasey and Kenny.
I think that shows the kind of chemistry we have with our drivers, and they know they got to race each other, and they want to beat each other, but they were pulling for Kasey to get in.
I looked up and saw them all standing there, and I was really proud of the organization when I saw that.
Q. Rick, you’re making a habit of getting all your drivers in The Chase. How do you feel about the four cars this year, as opposed to the last couple years?
RICK HENDRICK: Actually, I think we have got better balance this year than we have had in the past. I think Jeff’s been on a roll and he was really good tonight. He had that tire issue.
Dale’s had a — it’s been the best year of his career with us.
Jimmy and Chad have been a little bit off but we’re coming up on tracks that they’re really good at. And this will give the 5 car some good momentum going into The Chase.
But I think when we’re tied with three cars for the most wins and the momentum with the 5 car going in, I think that we have got a really good shot. I think that it’s the best balance that we have ever had with all the cars going into The Chase.
Q. Kenny, all season you’ve heard the new chase format that things don’t go right, if you win, you can get in. I just was wondering the way your season’s been, as these races were winding down, did you guys still feel that you had that opportunity. And secondly, kind of, what does it do for a team that was kind of in your position, to still have a chance to make the championship, even when like if you were going by points standings you might not otherwise have one.
KENNY FRANCIS: Yeah, I think it’s — it’s been a rough year for us, as we all know. It’s — we have had a lot of good cars and just seems like nothing goes our way. We haven’t got many good breaks.
So, you start, even though you feel like you’ve got good equipment and you feel like you’ve been running good, just when things don’t go your way, you lose some confidence and you get a little dejected. It kind of goes downhill sometimes.
So, winning this race in such dramatic fashion and getting in The Chase and all that, that is just a huge relief. And I think it’s going to be a huge up lift for the whole team and for our whole shop.
We share a shop with the 24 team. And Alan and Jeff have been running great all year. Alan and Jeff been running great all year, and they have won a lot of races here recently, and we have shared a lot of information and used a lot of their stuff.
And it’s kind of funny, when Chad won some races earlier this year, he was using our stuff. So it’s kind of a weird — it’s kind of crazy how it all works out sometimes.
But, it’s pretty cool to kind of have the shot to win the race — to win a race and get in The Chase. Points-wise we were kind of making our way. If you looked at it the way it used to be like the Top-12 or whatever, we were getting pretty close. We had that setback last week, but we were getting there that way.
So, we have been working hard, just we have been kind of under the limelight. So, finally we broke free.
Q. For both of you. Talk about the emotions of the last 10 laps. What — appeared you kind of had things in control, and then the wreck, and it looked like you weren’t probably going to win, and then another wreck, and you were able to pull it out.
KENNY FRANCIS: Well, I was pretty mad at Kyle Busch, I can tell you that.
But, the biggest thing about the whole way that played out is, once the — once we got that yellow, we were in a bad position on pit road because Danica was coming around us, and we were going to be in trouble there.
Then Harvick had the best box, under yellow. I don’t know where Denny was pitted, but I’m sure he was on a timing line or something. He was able to take advantage.
So, I knew we were kind of in trouble right there. Even if we did the best pit stop we could do, we couldn’t — we probably couldn’t beat them, unless they made mistakes.
So, when I saw two cars drive by on two tires, I thought that was the best thing that could ever happen right there. That put us in a perfect position, because I knew that then the restart would be way more chaotic and that would give us a good chance.
And Kasey took both restarts, he took full advantage and it looked like we were in the catbird seat either way
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you very much. Congratulations.
We’re now joined by our race winner, Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet.
This is his first victory this year. 10th Top-10 finish in 2014. His third victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 18 races. Kasey, you’re in The Chase. Tell us about your evening.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, it was just an unbelievable way to make The Chase. And to win at Atlanta, it’s a tough track, a track that I love coming to. And so, it feels really good to get a victory here tonight.
We had an up-and-down night. We started — I could barely get through the corner, I was loose. I fell back to about 22nd, I think.
Then made some adjustments and got rolling. We got up to about 5th just by passing cars. So, I felt really good about the car. And then, we kind of dialed ourselves out again. Fell back. Went a lap down.
Then came back again at the end. The last 60 laps, I felt really good. I was able to get that restart, get by Denny, and just could kind of pace. Myself and Harvick were pretty equal at that point in time, when I was in the front and had the clean air. So that helped us.
But very — couldn’t believe the caution with 2 to go. Those guys wrecking, and then we were able to come back and get another restart, and get to the win, and get by Matt. Which he ran great for having two tires there, and we were able to get by him and get the victory.
MODERATOR: Questions for our race winner.
Q. On that last restart, mentally, was it kind of like, okay, I know I have a good race car, I’m not going to lose. Whatever I got to do, you drove hard up the middle, bounced off those two guys. Mentally was it like this is my night, they can’t take it away, I’m going to take it right now.
KASEY KAHNE: That’s what I felt like. I felt like that all night. I felt confident. I stayed with it all night. We were good and we were bad and we were back to good.
I stayed really under control and positive throughout the race, and the guys just kept working hard, and they kept making adjustments. And at the end we had the speed again.
I just kept telling myself, do not spin the tires. Whatever you do, coming up second and third gear, don’t spin the tires, just take your time on the throttle. And if you do that, you’re going to have a great opportunity here because I knew that everybody was going to spin a little bit.
So, that — restarts just really worked out for us tonight. The acceleration of my car and everything was perfect.
So, yeah, we took advantage of those. I was really happy that we did, because I struggle with restarts a lot. That’s something that I’ve worked really hard on. There’s certain times when I do great, and a lot of times when I don’t.
So it’s — I was glad to do it tonight and get the win here in Atlanta.
Q. You said that you have struggled in the past with restarts. Why is that? And was it just a matter of having the fresh tires, what was the difference tonight?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, we all had fresh tires that one time. Then at the end, everybody did but Matt.
So, I just feel like for whatever reason tonight my restarts were good. I had good grip when I got to Turn 1 and could run hard through the corner.
Last week, at Bristol the restarts were good. The week before at Michigan, I just could not get going through Turns 1 and 2. The balance of the car, kind of the way I was driving, whatever it may have been. So it’s just something I work on and need to keep working hard on.
It’s a big part of our racing right now is the restarts. That first lap or two is where you can gain or lose a lot in a run. So tonight we gained and it worked for us.
Q. I asked this question of Kenny, I wanted to ask you sort of the same thing. With the new format this year, and as the races were winding down, win a race, even if you’re not in a good points position you can still make The Chase. With only a couple races left, did you feel you guys still had an opportunity to do that; and secondly, what is it like to be able to go from perhaps thinking we’re not going to make it to suddenly you’re not having a chance at winning the championship
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, and I knew that, like the last month every week it gets more and more and we weren’t gaining points. We had lost it, I think it was Michigan — we lost a lot at Bristol. So it was kind of like you just know that you have to win.
I told a couple friends or a friend of that this week, like I just kept saying, I have to win. I have to win Sunday night.
That was, it was all that I could think about. I knew Atlanta was a better opportunity for myself to win at than Richmond. I feel better here than I do at Richmond. But we ran pretty good at Richmond earlier in the year, so that could be a good track for us.
But I just knew that tonight was that — you know, we needed it. When I came off Turn 4 and I could see the checkered, right there is the first time I knew I was in The Chase and it’s such a relief to — I have the best teammates and Mr. H gives us everything that we need and up until now we weren’t going to be in The Chase and that hurt.
So we just, as a team, we put it together tonight. They never gave up, and we ended up getting the win, and feel good about that. We can just build off of it. Hopefully, we can build some confidence, some momentum, and go into Richmond and even get better.
Q. What does it mean for NASCAR to have Tony Stewart back at the track and racing this weekend
KASEY KAHNE: It was awesome. It was great to see Tony. I’ve wanted to talk to him for weeks. I think a lot of people have. And haven’t been able to.
So, it was awesome to see him, awesome just to say, hey. I mean, I know the guy, every event I’ve ever done for charity events, Tony’s supported and he’s the first guy to support anything that I’ve done. Anything for kids. I mean he’s such, he has such a good heart.
I just knew that everything was just really hard on him. It had to be. And I hadn’t been able to talk to him.
So I was, Friday, I think he left here and went out to his motor home and I was able to go in there and see him for the first time and give him a hug and just it felt really good to talk to him for 10 minutes.
Then to see him on the track was pretty good. The 14, you see it every week, and you just, it’s different when he’s not in it. Tonight, it goes green, and I was thinking about going high, and we got into Turn 1 on the original start and he was already there, going around me. So I’m like, yup, Tony’s back.
Q. How much difference, different things can do you on a restart to make sure that you don’t mess it up or is it just a matter of everything kind of falling right?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think your car has a little bit to do with it. Maybe your setup and things. Your gear ratios. Everybody runs different gear ratios, your second, your third, and kind of where your RPM’s are.
So that was, you know, Kenny chose just perfect ratios for us tonight here, all my restarts were really good. And as a driver, you just, it’s how fast you push the throttle. Our Hendrick engines have tons of power. All the Sprint Cup engines do. And if you push just a little bit too hard it instantly will light your tires up. So really feathering the throttle, especially in second and a little bit in third and not spinning your tires was key tonight.
Q. You had so much pressure to get in The Chase and now you’re there. Have you thought about the pressure of continuing in The Chase once you, this new knock-out format and all?
KASEY KAHNE: There won’t be as much pressure on us for awhile now, I guess. Just to make it, I mean, that’s just such a — it was winding down, we were — I don’t know. I feel like making The Chase, there’s a lot of pressure and you don’t really see that again until probably late in The Chase.
It could be a little different this year with the way it’s structured. But in the past, I’ve been in The Chase and not felt near the pressure.
Late in The Chase, obviously, if you’re racing for a championship, that would be the ultimate pressure. But we have never been strong enough late in The Chase to be there, so I think tonight was max pressure and next week would have even been more, if we didn’t get the win tonight.
MODERATOR: All right. Kasey, thank you very much.
KASEY KAHNE: All right. Thank you, guys.