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August 4, 2009

Kasey Kahne

DENISE MALOOF: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to this week's NASCAR teleconference in advance of this week's events at Watkins Glen International. Joining us this morning is Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 8 Budweiser Dodge for Richard Petty Motorsports. Kasey comes into the Helluva Good Sour Cream Dips at the Glen. He's seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, thus he's eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Kasey, we're going to start out with a question from a fan at NASCAR's Twitter account. This person wants to know if there's anything you can take away from your win earlier this season at Infineon Raceway, which is the other road course, that will help you this weekend at Watkins Glen.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, that's a good question. I feel like we gained a lot with our brakes. Our brake system at Sonoma was really good. You need really good brakes at Watkins Glen. So I think that's gonna benefit us from where we've been in the past.
Just as a driver, I picked up a lot at Sonoma this year, what I need to go fast. We've been able to go fast for a couple laps in the past, but it never seemed like we could for all 20 or 30 or however many laps the race run is.
Yeah, I think I gained some. I think our brake system will be a little better. Our cars have been great, our pit crew has been awesome. I think we'll have a great shot at having a good finish.
DENISE MALOOF: We'll go to media for questions for Kasey Kahne.

Q. Are you and Kenny able to do things on your branch of the team because of your big, solid sponsorship that others on the RPM can't because of touchy sponsorship? You mentioned brakes. Are there other things, have you found something in yourself or in the car setup that makes you now a regular contender in road races?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I hope so on the road racing. We made some big gains at Sonoma from where we'd been in the past on a race run. One of the things was the brakes. My brakes never faded the entire race. In the past, they've always told me you have to take care of 'em. That's just part of it
Well, I was getting out-broke at the end of races by other cars. He's not taking care of his, I have to take care of mine. We finally hit on some stuff there. I thought my brake package was awesome at Sonoma, which will help at Watkins Glen.
Yeah, I think I figured out just a little bit that I need a little bit different feeling than maybe I was looking for. Maybe the communication I was giving Kenny, he was giving me a certain feeling in the past, and on a long race run, it just kind of went away.
I think I learned a little bit, and our cars are definitely better than they've been also. We just keep making gains that way.
On the other side, Elliott Sadler (indiscernible) Valvoline, Air Force. We have some really good sponsors on our cars, with Budweiser, the names on our car. I think we're all in good shape as far as what we want to do, the changes we want to make. I think all the teams work really well together. They all kind of do everything together throughout a race weekend and throughout the week leading into the race. I think we're all on the same page. We just have to keep growing as a company.

Q. Did you gain confidence from the pure fact of seeing Tony Stewart in your rearview mirror the last laps, keeping him there? Was that a huge personal confidence booster for you on road courses?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think it was for myself, definitely, just to know that I didn't make mistakes. I just kept hitting my marks, doing the best I could do. That was what we did that day, and it was good enough.
Yeah, to beat Tony, and Juan was right there, Ambrose, it felt really good. Those are the guys you got to beat. I know Robby Gordon was kind of in the mix and they screwed up. Throughout the race, they pitted at the wrong time. Robby would have been right there as well. We passed him earlier. I didn't really think he was a factor.
Definitely felt good with our week at Sonoma for sure.

Q. Season to season, is there any part of a typical season that seems to wear on you and your team more or is it just go race the race? Do you have any favorite part of the season at all?
KASEY KAHNE: It's kind of crazy, the way racing is, the way NASCAR and racing in general, when things aren't going so well, you can get down a little bit, can feel like, man, I'm getting tired, I need a week off. When things are going good, you're just really excited, you're looking forward to each race, thinking how can I do better, how can I make my car better, how can I get information to the team. That's kind of where it is. Confidence is a huge part of it.
Right now we're in great shape. Everybody's excited to be at the track. I know I am. We just have to stay there to where we have that confidence throughout the entire year. These seasons are long. We do a lot of racing, a lot of traveling. If your performance isn't good, you can get down and lose a little bit late in the year.

Q. As far as hitting your marks, feeling the car, is there any way to explain that to a fan so they understand it a little bit more?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, it's difficult to explain. But really the hardest part with these cars is when you're behind another car and you want your front end to be turning good, that's hard to get that. A lot of times when you get your front end to turn really good, then the back of the car wants to slide around the front of the car, then you got your hands full with the back of the car.
Being able to get the front as good as you can and not have the back come around, not wear out your rear tires by having the front positive, you'll be eating in the right rear quick, halfway through the run, you'll lose the back that way. It's a fine line. We've been fortunate enough over the last couple months we've been hitting it pretty close. We just have to keep doing that.
It's tough. It takes time to figure out what it is. Once you get it, you have to figure out how to keep it and just give the right information and then you need your team to set the car up in that certain way. We've been able to do it pretty well this year.

Q. I wanted to know, when you dip into the lower series, do you notice other drivers out there, like Ron Hornaday, why they never got the break in the Cup Series?
KASEY KAHNE: I think Hornaday is awesome, doing a great job. There's guys in the Nationwide Series. There's guys in each series. I think the more you're in a certain series, if you're in the Truck Series for three straight years, you're figuring out the trucks like nothing else. Jimmie Johnson, he knows what he needs in a Cup car. He's as good as anybody at getting it with him and Chad. To get that feeling, sometimes it takes a while. Some drivers figure it out really quick. Seems like Kyle Busch figured it out with the COT car. Him and his team, they did really well. Other guys it takes a little bit longer. How quickly can you hit on it and how much faith does your owner have in you to get you there. I mean, you look at Roger Penske, what he's doing with Sam Hornish. A year ago, I was like, Doesn't seem like Sam is getting much better. Now Sam is hitting on it. Roger knew that Sam was a great driver. I feel like Sam has come a long ways. He's running really good now.
You have to figure it out yourself with your team, but you have to have people that stand behind you and know that you can do it.

Q. Jason Keller has been a lifetime guy in the Nationwide Series. Why do some guys get a break and some guys don't take it to the next level?
KASEY KAHNE: I don't know. I mean, winning the right race at the right time, having a certain seat open when you're on a roll. I think age comes in to factor at some point. The owners are in control of that. The owners and sponsors, what they want. If they want you, that's great. If they don't, you have to keep trying to make it so they do want you.
At the end of the day they're the ones who pick who's driving their car. They're the ones that should pick who's driving their car.

Q. You'll be doing a lot of short track racing this week. It's a little bit of downtime you have. So does Tony. He says when he goes to short tracks, it's a way of pushing his reset button. How would you characterize it for yourself?
KASEY KAHNE: I look at it as we love to race. That's what we want to do. When we go and do those other races, it's a little bit different than having, you know, maybe the pressure, you know how everybody wants to win, everybody wants to run well, get the points every weekend. When we go and do the other races, you don't necessarily have to win, but you still want to. It's just a little bit different feeling.
You can do it in kind of like a vacation, just about, and you're still racing, still enjoying yourself, doing what I think each one of us drivers really wants to do. There's some of 'em that want to do other things, then there's some of us that just love racing. If you get a chance, we do it. It's not like it is when you're in the Cup Series.

Q. What are you excited about having Kyle and maybe Ryan Newman out with you this week?
KASEY KAHNE: Kyle is going to Williams Grove tomorrow night in Pennsylvania. We're going to race up there. It's a super tough track, tough competition, you know. To me it's a neat place. Kyle hasn't been there. So I'm happy and glad that he's going and supporting the Kasey Kahne Foundation.
Ryan the next night is running the Silver Crown race. I'm racing the Silver Crown race at Oswego Speedway in New York. It's pretty close to Watkins Glen. It's just a nice race that we can do and try to run good. I haven't ran a Silver Crown car in a while so I'm looking forward to it.

Q. An annual question, related to what you were just talking about. What are your thoughts on possibly being part of any of the challenges during Knoxville Nationals week? Are you going to be around for Nationals at all? What do you think of your World of Outlaws chances there?
KASEY KAHNE: I love Knoxville week. I take it off at the start of the year when we set the calendar. That's the first weekend that gets X'd out as far as commitments and things. I'm heading there straight after Watkins Glen. Knoxville has a non-wing Sprint Cup race that night that Brad Sweet, one of our drivers, will be in Oscaloosa Monday and Tuesday. Terry puts on a great race. There's tons of people that come out and support it.
I don't think I'm going to race this year. I think I'm just going to go out there and hang out with my teams. Brad Sweet will be racing, Joey Saldana and Craig Dollansky. I think any one of those guys, especially Joey and Craig have a great opportunity of winning of Knoxville Nationals this year or front row challenge at Oscaloosa. Just see how everything works out.
It's a tough weekend. It's a tough race. Hopefully they put themselves in position and have a good shot.

Q. Can you compare this car to the previous car in Cup? There have been a lot of complaints about this car. What more can you do with this car that you couldn't do with the previous car? Is there anything?
KASEY KAHNE: Uhm, yeah, you can compare them. They drive the same when they're right really. I mean, they kind of drive the same when you get 'em perfect. They're really hard to get perfect. To me it's a little bit tougher when you're behind a car. It kind of seems like there's a bigger hole, as far as less air on the front of your car. It's a lot easier to slide the front tires and not turn, just never be able to get that run on the car in front of you. So I think working on maybe making a smaller hole behind the car of air.
I think just keep working on ways to either take weight out of the car or get weight lower in the car to where it doesn't roll as much, 'cause that's another thing, when you lose air on the front of your car, seems like it rolls more. You get tighter. You can't make your move.
So I think there's some things. I like the COT car. I really like it. I hope that NASCAR keeps working and finding ways that it makes it just a little bit easier on these teams.
You look at the double-file restarts, how exciting that's made about one minute of each restart. For about a minute, it's pretty crazy, there's a lot going on. Well, we need to make it more exciting on those other three hours of the race that there's not a double-file restart, figure out how to do that.
I think it's just to help the teams a little bit. I think we just need a little bit of help. Because our cars are starting to handle really good. It's hard to race another car.

Q. With these cars, compared to the older cars, what more is it requiring out of the driver? Is it a different type of driver that's going to succeed? Somebody coming up now, this car might benefit a certain type of driver as opposed to a few years ago. I know drivers adjust, but is there a certain type of driver that works their way up?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I don't know. I think you just never know about the guys coming up. They could run really good in a Legend car, really good in a Midget, Sprint car, whatever it may be, and get to a Cup car and it just doesn't suit their driving style, or the opposite. You could run not as good in those and get to a Cup car, Nationwide car, and it suits your driving style, you pick it up really quick.
So it's hard to say with that.
But I do know that as a driver, you have to be able to -- your car can be pushing the nose and dead loose, pushing, doing all these different things in one corner, and you have to be on top of it and really just be ready for any situation, adapt to it really quickly, do things to help it through those positions as far as how you're driving with your feet.
It takes time and stuff, but I think people figure it out quick, and some don't. Just part of how fast can you figure it out.

Q. Certainly seeing a lot of different streaks in some of the NASCAR series, Ron Hornaday has won five races in a row in the Truck Series, Kyle has finished first or second in Nationwide nine times. From your point of view, getting a sense of what the competition level is like in the Truck and Nationwide Series, which is more impressive?
KASEY KAHNE: Man, they're both tough to do. What both those guys are doing, it's really tough. They're on their game every time they're in a car. They run really strong, or in a truck in Hornaday's case. It's tough to say.
What Ron has done, five straight wins, you have to be really on it because there's so many times, you hear it all the time, a driver says, I would have won a race if that wouldn't have happened. Well, that happened, and you didn't win, so who cares. You finished third. You hear about every interview, each weekend somebody says that.
Hornaday doesn't have to say it. He won five races legit, straight up. Things happen and he gets back to the lead, and that's tough to do.
So I think winning five straight is tougher than what Kyle has done. I think what Kyle is doing is pretty crazy in itself.

Q. You're 180 points ahead of 12th. Do you feel like you finally have that cushion where you can just concentrate on racing and don't have to really points race any more?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I feel like we're getting in a better spot. But, you know, last year right before the Chase we had an engine problem at Michigan. We were running top 10, right around 10th, then at Bristol we were running top 10, about eighth, then got in that wreck a few other guys caused on the frontstretch, took out eight or 10 cars. We lost a ton of points really quick.
You know, I don't feel super confident, but I definitely feel good where we're sitting right now. I feel like if we keep it up, we're going to be in good shape. But things can happen so easily by your own error or just by racing situations. It's just the way racing goes.
I'll feel really good if we can have a big lead going into Richmond and we don't have to worry about it.

Q. Juan Pablo Montoya said yesterday that nobody is going to remember the wins, they're going to remember who got into the Chase. Do you agree with him on that point?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, definitely, you know, the Chase is what it's all about it seems like in NASCAR. It's what each one of our teams and everybody focuses so hard on.
Winning is big. Once you get into the Chase, you need those bonus points. But, yeah, you definitely need to make the Chase, do whatever it takes to get in there. I feel like the fastest car won the race yesterday. But if I wouldn't have blew turn one and got into Montoya, I think Montoya would have been leading before Hamlin, and I don't think Hamlin would have been able to get by him. I feel like I kind of took Juan's chance away from winning. But he still ran second. I'm glad he was able to save it, did a great job of saving his car after I hit him

Q. What brakes do you use?
KASEY KAHNE: I don't even really know. I forget.

Q. In thinking about your popularity base, it seems to me anecdotally out in the world, your biggest fan base is women and young people in general. Do your sponsors get back demographics that indicate that? Which came first, the TV commercials that had women running into things because they were looking at you or were you already kind of very popular among women and that led to the advertising agency to do commercials along those lines?
KASEY KAHNE: Man, I don't know. That was Allstate's idea to do those commercials with the three girls. Actually went really well. I had fun with them. It was always one of the most asked questions it seemed like in a Q&A, was about the girls, about those commercials. That was Allstate. They hit on a nice -- it worked out well. They made a good decision going with that whole deal.
Yeah, I don't know. I know all the sponsors look into who are your fans, how do we get these other fans. I know kids are a big part of my fan base, for sure. I think it's just 'cause I kind of look younger and stuff. I always hear a kid, he doesn't say Kasey is my favorite driver, it's Kasey Kahne. Kasey Kahne sounds like one word. I think the name and being young has helped both sides of that.

Q. The notorious incident where you rejected Paris Hilton at a party, have there been any other celebrity cases like that? What was the real nature of that encounter you had that time?
KASEY KAHNE: That was a long time ago. I was at some party in L.A., out there, with a few friends, and I met Paris Hilton. I met her. I was talking to her for a couple minutes. We were walking away. She gave me a the kiss on the cheek or something like that. Wasn't that big of a deal. That was it. Somebody made it into a big deal. It was really not a very big deal. I never had a chance with Paris Hilton. That wasn't what it was. We ran into each other, was talking about racing a little bit. That was the end of it.
DENISE MALOOF: Kasey, thanks very much for your time today. We appreciate it, especially with a short week. Good luck this weekend at Watkins Glen.
KASEY KAHNE: All right. See you later. Thanks.
DENISE MALOOF: Thanks to all the media who joined us today. As always, we appreciate your efforts and we will see you next week.

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