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Kahne: ‘There Are Not A Ton Of Opportunities’

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, August 13 2017

Kasey Kahne wants to keep racing in the NASCAR Cup Series. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

RacinToday.com

Kasey Kahne said Saturday the vibe among teammates remains positive at Hendrick Motorsports, where his tenure will end at the close of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Kahne’s impending departure was announced last Monday by team-owner Rick Hendrick, who since has tabbed NASCAR Xfinity Series rookie William Byron to drive what will be the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro LT1 beginning in 2018. Kahne qualified the No. 5 Liftmaster Chevrolet SS 23rd for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 (3 p.m., EDT, NBC Sports Network) at Michigan International Speedway, where he declared his search for a ride remains single-minded.

“Just the Cup Series,” said Kahne, 37, a six-time series winner while driving for HMS. “Yeah, really just the Monster Energy Cup Series as far as NASCAR goes.”

Earlier, Kahne met with the media in Brooklyn, Mich., to discuss his future. An edited transcript follows:

QUESTION: How do you feel the dynamic and vibe was within the team today?

KASEY KAHNE: “Well, I think it was kind of interesting…the vibe was good.  The team was good just pretty similar to always.  It was the first time I had seen my guys since the news.  A lot of them weren’t at the shop on Monday, so they were told by guys that were at the shop and I was gone at Knoxville (Iowa) this week.  I talked to a couple over text or Snapchat, phone call, something like that, but that was really about it.  So, today it was cool everybody seemed good.  We just kind of went to work like always and hope to put together a really strong weekend.”

QUESTION: Are you driving your Sprint Car from time-to-time? Will you have more involvement now in your team?

KASEY KAHNE: “No, pretty similar to how it’s been the last few years.  I race when I can, which is not a lot, but when I can I still enjoy racing on the dirt.  This weekend it’s all about our teams, Brad Sweet and Daryn Pittman (starting third and seventh on Saturday night in the Knoxville Nationals).  So, we have two good cars and good opportunities to try and get a Nationals win. Yeah, I just support those guys.  I love that type of racing and being a part of it, being an owner, trying to give them the opportunity to go out and win the biggest Sprint Car race that there is.”

QUESTION: Can you expand at all on your search for a Cup ride in 2018?

KASEY KAHNE: “I started basically Sunday night. Monday talked to some different owners, personnel at different teams, and just trying to show that I really want to still be in the Cup Series.  I want to race here and if there’s any opportunity I would love to talk about it, something like that.  That’s been really good.  Everybody is nice and talked about their programs and was really cool to have those conversations.

“Also, Mr. Hendrick has been really supportive and making sure that…you know, he wants me in a car as well.  You know it didn’t work out in the No. 5, but he wants me in another car and he wants me to be out there racing next year.  Between all that, I just really think I’ll be able to come up with something that will be very competitive and be able to be in the Cup Series for a while to come.”

QUESTION: Rick Hendrick talked Wednesday about a liaison team possibility for you. Are you banking your hopes on that? Are there many opportunities out there?

KASEY KAHNE:  “Yeah, I mean, I think we all know there are not a ton of opportunities.  There are some really good drivers that don’t have a deal done at this time that will probably end up in cars, I would think.  I just feel like the opportunities are pretty slim, but I’ve always tried to be really respectful and when I’ve had the opportunity to go fast and win we have been able to win some races.  I would always like to win more, but we have some wins and have done a good job with the people in the garage and our partners over the years.

“So, I really think that I can come up with something good and come up with something that will be fun to be a part of, and also try to work hard to make that team better than it’s ever been and myself better than I’ve been. I still have that mindset and I really hope that something works out to where I can be in a strong car next year and enjoy racing in this series, because I’ve actually enjoyed it for so long and I’ve lived so many of the highs of the Cup Series.

“I watched Jimmie Johnson win five (of seven Cup) championships.  I’ve won 18 races myself and we had six wins in one year.  I watched Dale Earnhardt Jr. win some different races, but when he won Bristol in the No. 8 car was something that I will never forget because of the 170,000 fans that you thought were going to come to the infield with him.  I think I’ve lived a great part of the sport, been part of all that and I don’t want to be done yet.”

QUESTION: Can you talk about preparing for the playoffs with this group?

KASEY KAHNE: “I think the biggest thing there is just working with my team and having my team behind me.  Me being behind them and what they do, how hard they work to prepare the best car and put it on track each week and just trying to find the little bit of speed we need if we are ever to want to win a championship and advance through those rounds.

“I think we all know the No. 78 (Toyota Camry of Martin Truex Jr.) and No. 18 (Toyota of Kyle Busch) have been really the cars to beat the last month. The No. 42 (Chevrolet SS of Kyle Larson) right before that was really strong and we’ve all just been a little bit off of that.  So, we’re working hard to get to where we want to be.

“The only way I’m going to get there is the people and being part of that.  I feel like that’s been one thing at Hendrick Motorsports…one of the coolest things there has been working with my teammates, the other crew chiefs, (Chad) Knaus, Alan (Gustafson) and Greg (Ives), those guys.  I just feel like I’ve had a really good relationship with that whole group on both sides.  So, I think we have to keep that going all the way until the end of the season and just try to get the best results we possibly can.  But it all is just people and how we work together. And if we do what I know we can do, I think we can really perform and do a lot more than what we’ve done so far this season.”

QUESTION: Do you think a new ride/team will give you a fresh start and rejuvenate your career?

KASEY KAHNE:  “Yeah, I mean, I certainly hope so.  I think that it’s all about people _ again, if you can get the people behind you and believe in you and then I believe in them and we work together for the same goal and that’s to win races. It’s a competitive series, it’s a super-tough series to win in and so many things have to go right for the entire race weekend and then throughout the race.  It’s not easy by no means, but once guys figure out how to do it they can get on that roll they figure out the speed in their car, what the driver’s looking for and can give him that feel each week.  They figure out how to win more than the rest of us.  Hopefully we can be part of that again if we get in the right situation.”

QUESTION: What does it mean to you that Rick Hendrick said he took responsibility for your No. 5 team not running up to expectations?

KASEY KAHNE: “Well, I think a lot of what he said this week means a lot to me because to have somebody like Rick Hendrick, Mr. Hendrick, to be on your side, even though I’m not going to be part of his team anymore, to be on your side and the power that he has in this sport and what he has done for NASCAR for so many drivers and employees over the years…to have him behind you is a really good thing.  I respect that.  I respect him a ton.

“Yeah, I hope we can build something out of that, but I also have been working in my own direction as well on certain things to make sure I just check out everything that’s out there for sure.  I don’t want to miss anything, but yeah, Mr. H. has been really good about where we are at.  I think we’re going to come up with something that should work out pretty well.”

QUESTION: You’ve struggled at MIS recently. How do you feel about your car this weekend?

KASEY KAHNE: “Yeah, I think over the last few races here, the final restart has put me from like seventh or eighth to 13th – 15th I would say in some of those races.  So, we could have run top-10 in a couple of the races since 2014, but to actually run in the top-five we haven’t had that kind of speed at all.  So, we’re trying to work on those things. Obviously, the restarts to me, there’s a line that you are put in and where you go from there is up to the driver so you have to make things happen in the first and second corner. But as far as the speed of the car that’s something that I think we’ve made some gains in.

“I thought at Indy we unloaded second, I thought we were really competitive and Pocono, I felt we had a third to fifth-place car. It didn’t work out at the end the way things went, but our speed was third-to-fifth place. Also, the first Michigan race, we were an eighth-place car and finished 14th, so hopefully we can get in the top-10.  That would be a nice weekend. But yeah, I want to be in the top-five and I want to see if we can have the speed to really just battle for a win again at Michigan. That would feel pretty good. But as of today we were a little bit off getting into the corner, my car was like moving around left to right a lot, pulling on the left front and losing right rear grip.  So, just a small balance thing there that we will work on tomorrow, hopefully we can get a lot closer.”

 

 

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, August 13 2017
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