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Minter: Kahne Talks Candidly About Kahne

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 5 2009
Kasey Kahne opened up a bit during interviews this week.   (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Kasey Kahne opened up a bit during interviews this week. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

This week’s NASCAR teleconference was livelier than usual. Kasey Kahne was the featured speaker, and some interesting subjects, some on-track and some off, were discussed. Here’s a look at a few of them.

* Points racing:
One of the most interesting topics was the importance of race wins versus making the cut for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kahne was asked to respond to Juan Pablo Montoya’s comments on Monday that people won’t remember who won races but they will know who made the Chase.

Kahne agreed with Montoya. “Yeah,” he said. “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.”

Try selling that argument to long-time promoting whiz H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler. “I’ve never known of anyone buying a ticket to a points race,” Wheeler often says.

Maybe there’s too much focus on points these days. Once, the buzz was about who won the World 600 or the Southern 500, or even races at North Wilkesboro and Martinsville. Back in the day, the races themselves were happenings, not building blocks toward an end-of-the-season points race.

Hopefully, when it’s all said and done this year, people will remember that Denny Hamlin won Pocono the week after his grandmother died.

* Why some drivers get career breaks and others don’t:
When you really boil down Kahne’s response, it didn’t seem to have a whole lot to do with driving ability.

“The owners are in control of that, the owners and sponsors, what they want,” he said. “If they want you, that’s great. If they don’t, you have to keep trying to make it so they do want you.”

In an era where a key part of a driver’s duty is selling the sponsor’s product, it’s almost certain that there are some less-than-polished short trackers out there who could give a good accounting of themselves in a top-notch Cup car. What’s uncertain is whether they’ll ever get a chance.

Most likely that answer is “No.”

* Extra-curricular racing by Cup drivers:
There are few as active as Kahne. He’s racing at Williams Grove, Pa., this week and will be in Knoxville, Iowa, next week for the races there next week. It’s refreshing to see a Cup driver supporting short track racing, especially those like Kahne who field cars for others and drive themselves whenever possible.

* Why does he do it?
“I look at it as we love to race,” he said. “That’s what we want to do. When we go and do those other races, it’s a little bit different than having maybe the pressure, 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 w in, but you still want to. It’s just a little bit different feeling.”

Maybe it feels better because there are no points to fret about.

* The Car of Tomorrow and double-file restarts:
Although he didn’t go very far out on the limb, Kahne did point out that there’s room for improvement with the new car.

“I hope that NASCAR keeps working and finding ways that it makes it just a little bit easier on these teams,” he said. “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 we just need a little bit of help… It’s hard to race another car.”

That kind of honest assessment of the racing today is refreshing. And it’s good to know that it looks the same from behind the windshield as it does from the grandstands or the TV screen.

* Ron Hornaday’s record of five straight Camping World Truck wins and cutting through the bull when it comes to post-race driver interviews:
“You hear it all the time, a driver says, ‘I would have won a race if that wouldn’t have happened,’” Kahne said. “Well, that happened, and you didn’t win, so who cares. You finished third. You hear about every interview, each weekend somebody says that.”

That, Kahne said, isn’t the case with the current king of the truck series.

“Hornaday doesn ‘t have to say it,” Kahne said. “He won five races legit, straight up. Things happen and he gets back to the lead, and that’s tough to do.”

* Kahne’s popularity with females and kids:
It seems to have little to do with marketing campaigns or any grand strategy.

“I think it’s just ’cause I kind of look younger and stuff,” he said. “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.”

* The Paris Hilton Affair:
Actually, he said, there wasn’t one.

“I was at some party in L.A., out there, with a few friends, and I met Paris Hilton,” he said. “I met her. I was talking to her for a couple minutes. We were walking away. She gave me a kiss on the cheek or something like that. Wasn’t that big of a deal. That was it…

“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.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, August 5 2009