MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES
PRE-SEASON MEDIA AVAILABILITY
CHARLOTTE MEDIA TOUR
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
JANUARY 24, 2018
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 95 PROCORE CAMARO ZL1, met with members of the media at the Charlotte Media Tour and discussed being his expectations of being with a new team, winning at the Brickyard last year, his World of Outlaws team, and more. Full Transcript:
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION ON THE OFF-SEASON
“It was pretty normal but it was a little different. I didn’t go to Australia this off-season, which I have for the last couple of years. I had (his son) Tanner a ton. We went to Washington. We did a lot of stuff together and I really enjoyed that. And just starting over with a new fresh start with the team and a group of people learning that. But, it’s been a little different. But, it’s still two months kind of off, which in our racing season for 15 years, it’s all pretty similar. Those two months are usually pretty similar.”
WHAT DOES TANNER UNDERSTAND OR NOT UNDERSTAND ABOUT YOUR JOB?
“He understands that I race cars. He understands whenever I drop him off with his mom; he thinks I’m flying to a race track. Like, no matter what. Even if I’m coming here today, he’s like Daddy’s flying. He thinks I fly on airplanes all the time. I fly a lot but not as many as he thinks. And he loves airplanes. That’s his favorite thing, by far, are airplanes and helicopters. He sleeps with them. He’s with them all the time. He thinks that because I race cars that I fly on airplanes all the time. So, that’s his big thing.”
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE IN BEING A PART OF A 600-EMPLOYEE GROUP AND THEN MOVING TO A SMALLER TEAM WHERE YOU’RE THE GUY? IS IT A LOT TO GET USED TO?
“I don’t think it’s a lot to get used to, but it’s definitely a different way. Our work is going to be different; like the way we look at things and the way we prepare. My whole mindset is the relationships and doing it together, and the chemistry of the group that we have. It’s a small group compared to what I’ve had the last six year and it’s a group of people who all want to go in the same direction. And I feel like if we do that, and work together, no matter what it is, to make the No. 95 the best car that it can be, we’re going to have success. And the guys all feel the same way. That’s our plan. They’re working really hard to get the new Camaro ZL1’s ready and we’re going to have our first one ready for this test coming up in Vegas next week and we’ll get going from there.”
WHAT WOULD DEFINE SUCCESS?
“To me, kind of what I was saying about the people and building those relationships and working in the right direction. If we can do that and keep that morale and that communication all season long, our success is going to be that we’re going to have opportunities to win races and we’re going to have an opportunity to make the Chase. We’re going to run in the top 10 more often than what I have in the last few years. And I think if we can do all those things, it’s going to be a very successful season.”
WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CREW CHIEF TRAVIS MACK SO FAR? WHAT DOES HE BRING TO THE TABLE?
“It’s been good. I’ve always known the name Travis Mack, but I never knew the guy really, until something like three months ago. Now we know each other much better. He has a great family and he works hard. He’s really into racing and Cup cars and being a crew chief. He’s learned a lot over the years, so he brings a lot to the table from his knowledge. And also, just having a young guy who is super excited and enthusiastic and things like that will be really good for our whole team throughout the whole season.”
DOES HE SEEM LIKE THE WORK ALCOHOLIC MENTALITY?
“Yeah, he’s definitely got that on whatever needs to be done. He’s not starting now as a crew chief. He’s had that ever since he has been the sport. That’s just who he is. If a car needs extra work and he’s got to be the guy to do it, he’ll stay as long as he needs to and that’s kind of always been his way. So, that’ll be really good for him as a Cup crew chief because there’s a lot of time that goes into it.”
WITH YOUR EXPERIENCE IN THE SPORT, WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU BRING TO THE TEAM THAT WILL HELP THEIR PERFORMANCE?
“Just the experience. From the highs and lows, I’ve lived both of them a lot over the years. The cars and understanding what, as a driver, you need, and understanding the things that can hurt you and can help you from people to the way a car is driving. I’ve learned a lot of that stuff over the years and put it away and I think as long as we can all be open with each other and work in their directions, my directions, and combine it all, it’s going to be really successful.”
ON THE CHILI BOWL
“The Chili Bowl was great. It always is. It’s kind of an exciting week. It’s a fun event and it feels like it keeps growing and it’s a building. So, how does it keep growing inside that building when it’s always had tons of cars and people? But, to me it just keeps growing and gets bigger and bigger. It’s fun to see Lee Spencer, Bob Pockrass, Jeff Gluck, like these guys that we see at the Cup track all the time, at the Chili Bowl as well. They enjoy it to and it’s not like oh, I’ve got to be here. It actually seems like they really enjoy it when I talk to them. I feel like it’s a breath of fresh air because we’ve got a couple of months off and you want to get back in a race car and that’s the perfect spot to start the year.”
TALK ABOUT WHAT RACING YOU ARE GOING TO BE DOING OUTSIDE OF THE CUP SERIES THIS YEAR
“I’ve always had the two World of Outlaw teams we’ve raced, and I love that stuff. It’s that type of racing that I came from and learned. I have Daryn Pittman and Brad Sweet doing that full time. I plan on racing 20 to 30 races. I’m going to do the first five in Florida, as long as it fits. We’ll start there but the No. 95 is priority for me. I make sure that’s all priority and then from there, I build my schedule as I go and I hope to get 20 to 30 races depending on how they all fit in at the right times of the year.”
IS IT MORE ENJOYABLE ON SOME LEVEL TO RACE FOR A SMALLER TEAM THAN ONE OF THE MEGA TEAMS?
“The last time I raced for a smaller team was Red Bull and I loved it there. It was one of maybe my favorite years I’ve had in the Cup series. The other years would have to be with Ray Evernham. But, that Red Bull year was awesome. I enjoyed it a ton. This year it would be great if it could feel something like that where we start together and we work together and we keep building it up. I felt like about half way through that season, we got to where we were very competitive and one of the best cars from that point on. We’ll see how this year goes, but those are things that we want to shoot for, for sure.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BEAT THOSE WORLD OF OUTLAWS GUYS ON A YEAR-LONG SCHEDULE THAT RUNS 90-PLUS RACES?
“Consistency and winning more races. As a group, last year, my brother was on the No. 49. His car with Brad Sweet, they were super consistent and so strong the entire season, but they didn’t win quite enough races. So, keeping that consistency and being really prepared, which KKR does a great job of, and then winning more races and winning more of the bigger races. That’s something we need to do. If we can do that, it changes the whole way it all plays out. It’s tough because Donny (Schatz) wins so much. And then if he’s not winning, he’s second or third. It’s tough to beat the guy but we’re not going to give up. We’re going to keep trying.”
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION REGARDING SPONSORSHIP
“We lost Great Clips and I was committed to Daryn Pittman and told him that he had a two-year deal with me and this year was part of that. So, we went into this year with zero sponsors for his car and I was running them regardless because I made that commitment to him. And to get I-omni on his car now, for I think 40 races, is awesome. We’re excited. The car looks great. They’re excited and Daryn is in a great place. Hopefully we can build something from here. The NAPA deal with Brad is unreal to have that and know that they’re going to be with us for a couple more years. That’s such a neat deal. They race all over the United States in a lot of places that NASCAR and NHRA don’t go to, so that helps a lot of their stores and the guys that come to North Dakota or South Dakota and these different race tracks that they normally wouldn’t get to see racing. So, the NAPA side is great. And my car is always Bargain Outlet. We’ve been great friends with Mark Butler for a long time. I opened up a lot of all these grand openings. Those stores are growing like crazy and I’m looking forward to running the yellow paint scheme all year.”
YOU WON THE BRICKYARD LAST YEAR. HOW BIG WAS THAT? WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE DATE CHANGE THIS YEAR AND IT BEING THE LAST QUALIFYING RACE BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS?
“To win Indy was nice. I’d been close there since I came into the sport, for whatever reason. The first year in ’04, we were as fast as Jeff Gordon, who won it. We just had to go to the back towards the end. Every year we’ve been in the mix. So, to finally win it was a great feeling. I’ll carry that win forever because that will be one of my biggest wins I get in racing. I was barely alive after that race. I was so worn out. It’s because of how hot it is. The cars were hot. It was so hot and humid outside. And to sit in the grandstands has to be probably worse. So, to move it and hopefully give some of these fans and people that are actually attending and trying to watch a NASCAR race an opportunity to maybe enjoy it, I think is a good thing.”
WAS THAT THE MOST EXHAUSTED YOU’VE EVER BEEN AFTER AN INDY RACE?
“Yeah, yeah it was. I’ve ben pretty bad after some races, but not at that level. That stuck with me through like Wednesday and Thursday before I started feeling (better). Thursday was the first day I started feeling really good again. It was tough. I don’t think I’ve ever been that dehydrated, for sure.”
WITH THE NEW DATE BEING THE LAST RACE BEFORE THE PLAYOFFS, AND A LOT ON THE LINE FOR MANY TEAMS, ISN’T THAT A TOUGH PLACE TO HAVE IT?
“Yeah, what’s our normal last race? Richmond was our final race. I feel like Richmond is similar to that. You’re going to have certain guys and certain cars that run good at Richmond all the time. Indy will be that same similar way. I bet Indy could have more of a wild card than Richmond even, really, I would think. I won it last year.”
(NO MICROPHONE) QUESTION ON COMING FROM WASHINGTON AND HIS FIRST RIDE WITH ROBERT YATES
“That was kind of my first go in stock cars. Ford was pushing that pretty hard at the time. So that kind of forced Robert into doing a 16-race schedule with me. We just went from there. It started in a small little building in a small shop with little lighting and everything and a group of guys working hard to get cars ready for Daytona. It ended as part of Rensi Racing up the road, which helped us a good bit by the end of that year just with some speed and things. So it was cool to get to know Robert and Doug and Dale Jarrett at the time…..Ricky Rudd, Elliott Sadler….it was a great experience. I wouldn’t change it.”
DID YOU KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU CAME EAST?
“Yeah, I was really excited. I wanted to race stock cars and see what it was like. So yeah, to get started there I was really excited. There were a lot of growing pains that first year in trying to figure it out. So, I still raced my Sprint Car a lot and I could win in the Sprint Car every time I went and raced. We had a shot at winning and that was really cool because it would give me a boost when I came back to the Stock Car and it kept me going there. But, we didn’t run that great that year. But the next year when I got into the Akins Motorsports car and that was more of a team that had been racing and we instantly were fast right of the bat with that car.”
CHANGING TEAMS BUT STAYING WITHIN THE CHEVROLET CAMP, WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE NEW CAMARO ZL1? HOW IS THE TEAM ADJUSTING?
“I’m excited to drive the Camaro next week. I know there has been a ton of work put into it through Chevrolet, through Ganassi, through Hendrick, and through RCR all together working to give us the best car that we can possibly have when we unload at Daytona. You know it’s going to be better than what we had and we’ll see how all that plays out. You don’t really know for sure until you get behind cars and get in the pack. And that changes. But I know that the work that’s gone into it by so many people has been a huge push and I think it’s going to be good. It’s going to be really good.”
NASCAR TURNS 70 THIS NEXT MONTH. WHAT DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE OVERALL HEALTH OF THE SPORT?
“Seventy years is a long time. Sixty years at Daytona this year I think I heard, too. To me, the sport, for me growing up as a kid and loving to watch it every Sunday because I wanted to be a race car driver. I wanted to be part of this or Sprint Car racing or whatever it may be; you just want to be a race car driver. I remember it clear as day watching races with my dad. It was always at 9 o’clock in the morning there because they must have started at noon here, I don’t know. We’d wake up and make breakfast and we’d watch the NASCAR race and that was our Sunday. It was awesome. I feel like today there have to be kids out there still doing that same type of tying and just wanting to be part of the sport because it’s a great form of auto racing. There is so much it offers to so many different people. I love every break that I’ve had in this sport and the opportunities that I’ve had to be part of it for so long. And again this year, it’s the same thing. I have a great opportunity. Yeah, I think NASCAR is awesome and I’m glad that I’m part of it.”
IS IT AS VIBRANT AS YOU WANT IT TO BE?
“When I first came into it, you go to any race track and the grandstands are packed. I thought that was just unbelievable to see that many people. Whether it was Bristol with maybe 165,000 people, Daytona was packed and Daytona is still packed today. We don’t have as many of those anymore. There are certain tracks now that we have full houses and other than that, it’s not as many people. I wish there were more people at the race that were involved and intrigued by it and wanted to be part of it. I wish we could get back to that for the excitement level, but I still think the racing is very good. It’s super competitive. As a driver, every week I’m thinking how can I get better, how can I help my team, and how can we be more competitive? That’s because of the sport. That brings you back. You want to win. You want to win at this level and it’s because of the previous 70 years is why you want it so badly. I think there’s a lot of good things about it but I’d love to see more people in the stands.”
“I don’t think that has anything to do with it. To me, the smaller group is good. I feel like it’s just more like how do we focus on this group of people and the people that surround me? Like, how do we focus on making us better? The bigger teams, you have so many people pulling in different directions. You don’t always get to test at the right tracks. You don’t get to maybe have this or change that. It just takes time. Being a smaller team, anything that will ever be done is to make that car better. And I’m the driver of that car. So, to me it’s going to work really well for myself. I like that side of it. I like being hands-on and being able to really be involved with the team.”