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Tag:Kasey Kahne
Posted on: January 3, 2012 5:08 pm
Edited on: January 17, 2012 11:17 am
 

2012 Sprint Cup Series driver changes

By Pete Pistone

Fans won't be able to tell the players - or in this case drivers - without a scorecard this coming Sprint Cup Series season. There have been numerous driver changes, swaps and movement since the final checkered flag of 2011 flew at Homestead last November.

You can keep up with all the new faces in new places right here, which will be updated regularly as more changes take place:

No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet

In: Kasey Kahne comes over after a one year run at Red Bull Racing to take the reigns of the No. 5 Chevy, which will sport Farmer’s Insurance as its primary sponsor. Kahne signed the deal in 2010 but with nowhere to go in his four-car stable, team owner Rick Hendrick brokered a deal with Red Bull for last season. 

Out: Mark Martin ended his Hendrick tenure at the end of last season with a disappointing performance. Martin has moved on to Michael Waltrip Racing for 2012. 

Our Take: Kahne comes to Hendrick with Kenny Francis and the duo has become one of the best driver-crew chief combos in the Sprint Cup Series. They ended their Red Bull careers on a hot streak and bring that same momentum and confidence to the potent Hendrick organization.


No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

In: Clint Bowyer joins MWR after his successful career at Richard Childress Racing. Sponsor 5-Hour Energy will back the entry for the majority of the season and talented crew chief Brian Pattie comes on board to call the shots after leaving Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing. 

Out: Waltrip has added a third entry to his stable to join incumbent Martin Truex Jr. as well as newcomer Mark Martin who takes David Reutimann’s spot with the team. 

Our Take: Bowyer brings MWR’s talent level up considerably and seemed ready for a fresh start after his contract talks at RCR stalled. He was in the enviable position of having a sponsor in hand and chose Waltrip’s operation as the place for the next phase of his Cup career. Getting off to a fast start will be key for the new team’s success.


No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge

In: A.J. Allmendinger slides into the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge in a move from Richard Petty Motorsports. The stars aligned for Allmendinger to get a shot at taking over a car that won twice last season and made the Chase and he seems an ideal fit for team owner Roger Penske’s style.

Out: Kurt Busch “mutually parted ways” with Penske after his tumultuous 2011 season and will drive for Phoenix Racing this season.  The infamous incident with ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch at the Homestead season finale was the tipping point for Busch to end his tenure with Penske Racing. 

Our Take: Allmendinger has been able to perform under tense conditions at both Red Bull and RPM when financial issues played a big part in each team’s day to day operation. He now can rest assured that there will be stability at Penske and can concentrate on trying to elevate his game. There is some pressure taking over the wheel of a successful entry like the No. 22 and trying to win with a rookie Sprint Cup crew chief in Todd Gordon.


No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford

In: David Ragan lands with Front Row Motorsports after being squeezed out of Roush Fenway Racing due to sponsorship issues and not getting the call for open seats at Penske Racing or Richard Petty Motorsports. Ragan stays in the Ford camp with the move.

Out: Travis Kvapil is the odd man out at this poont although team officials haven't ruled out the possibility of a third entry at selected races with Kvapil splitting time with J.J. Yeley and Michael McDowell. A former truck series champ, Kvapil joins the list of drivers impacted by sponsorship issues in 2012.

Our Take: Ragan is a Sprint Cup Series race winner with his Daytona victory last July and has the talent to potentially bring this team up a notch or two in the performance department. But make no mistake, Front Row is by no means anywhere close to having the resources of a Roush Fenway Racing and Ragan will have a challenging season ahead trying to be success with a much smaller and less funded race team.


No. 35 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet

In: David Reutimann has landed with the upstart independent team after his release from Michael Waltrip Racing. The popular driver will pair with Dave Blaney in what TBR hopes will be a two-car effort for at least 26 races with sponsorship dictating the complete schedule. 

Out: TBR ran a handful of races with the car last season that saw the likes of Stephen Leicht, Geoffrey Bodine and Steve Park behind the wheel. 

Our Take: TBR was the quintessential David vs. Goliath story last season and scored some much needed exposure with a number of solid runs particularly at Daytona and Talladega. The team will face another uphill battle this season but the addition of Reutimann and his marketability could bring in additional sponsorship dollars that will in turn help the organization became more competitive.

No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford

In: Aric Almirola was the somewhat surprising choice to take the wheel of the famed No. 43 entry at RPM. Almirola spent last year driving for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and after running a handful of Cup races for RPM in 2010 was tabbed to fill the seat of the iconic ride for 2012. 

Out: A.J. Allmendinger was granted his release from the team after primary sponsor Best Buy opted to leave for Roush Fenway Racing. Allmendinger then signed on to drive the No. 22 Dodge at Penske Racing. 

Our Take: The good news is RPM remains a two-car effort and that the No. 43 stays on track for 2012. But the team once again faces a rebuilding process taking on a new driver in Almirola to pair with Marcos Ambrose. Allmendinger had made strides to bring the organization up to the next level and seemed to be knocking on the door for his first career Sprint Cup win last season. There will be pressure on Almirola to continue that upward trend.


No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet

In: Kurt Busch takes his much-publicized leap from Penske Racing to James Finch’s operation in hopes of “putting the fun” back into his racing career. The team once again continues its relationship with Hendrick Motorsports ensuring quality cars and potent engines for its 2012 effort. 

Out: Landon Cassill piloted the ride for the bulk of the 2011 season when the 51 entry wound up finishing 30<sup>th</sup> in the final owner point standings. 

Our Take: Right out of the box look for Busch to be a factor at Daytona as Finch’s teams always perform well at restrictor plate tracks. The former series champion’s considerable talents automatically elevates the organization and it won’t hurt having someone of Busch’s stature when hunting down new sponsors. But whether Busch is in for the long haul when tough times inevitably come for the small, one car operation remains to be seen as well as whether he can take the team further up the point standings.


No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

In: Mark Martin signed a two-year deal to drive the former No. 00 Camry with sponsor Aaron’s on board in a 25-race schedule. Team owner Waltrip plans to pilot the entry for five more races at Daytona, Talladega and Kentucky.

Out: David Reutimann was released at the end of last season with Waltrip and sponsor Aaron’s citing a lack of performance as the main reason for the change. 

Our Take: Martin still has the desire to drive and at times showed he could get the job done last year in both his time with Hendrick’s No. 5 Sprint Cup entry as well as some limited starts for Turner Motorsports’ Nationwide program. The 25-race slate should fit perfectly into Martin’s limited schedule desires. Waltrip’s four plate race starts as well as the home date in Kentucky will provide exposure and publicity for the sponsor, the former Daytona 500 winner and spokesperson extraordinaire's specialty.


Dropped teams

No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford

The loss of full-time sponsor UPS forced team owner Jack Roush to shut down his fourth entry for the 2012 season leaving David Ragan on the unmployment line. Despite winning his first career Sprint Cup Series race last July at Daytona, Ragan was forced out of RFR at season's end.

No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet

Sponsorship issues led to team owner Richard Childress to eliminate this entry from his Sprint Cup stable and to part ways with Clint Bowyer, who left for Michael Waltrip Racing. RCR goes back to three teams for the 2012 season with Kevin Harvick, Jeff Burton and Paul Menard

No. 4 and No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyotas

The departure of Red Bull as both owner and sponsor of this team means two less entries for the 2012 Sprint Cup Series campaign. General Manager Jay Frye was not successful finding new investors to keep the organization's doors open and an official shut down was the aftermath. While Kasey Kahne has landed at Hendrick Motorsports, Brian Vickers does not have a ride lined up for the new season. 


2012 CREW CHIEF TRACKER


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Posted on: January 2, 2012 1:47 pm
Edited on: January 3, 2012 3:46 pm
 

2011 Team Review/Preview: Hendrick Motorsports

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Jimmie Johnson's run for a sixth straight Sprint Cup Series championship in 2011 came up short for Hendrick)

Review


For the first time since the 2005 season Hendrick Motorsports did not celebrate a Sprint Cup championship. 

Jimmie Johnson’s amazing run of five straight titles came to an end last season putting a period on one of the most incredible accomplishments in sports. 

"Just thinking about it, like wow, it really is over," Johnson said. "I'm disappointed that it is over but very proud of what this team has done. What we have done over the last, really, 10 years, the last five obviously stand out, but what we have done as a group over the 10-year run so far has been truly amazing." 

Johnson did make the Chase as did his Hendrick teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. but none of the trio was really able to mount a run at the title. 

Johnson’s regular season included 17 top five finishes including a victories at Talladega and Kansas. But once the playoffs began, Johnson could not muster the championship magic that brought him titles from 2006 through 2010. 

“We had a lot of things that happened with the wreck in Charlotte and Talladega,” team owner Rick Hendrick said analyzing Johnson’s Chase performance. “We played our cards wrong at Talladega, our whole organization did, to have cars as good as we had and end up where we did. But that’s racing. I think when you’ve tasted the success they have, and now you’ve been beat, you’ve got to go to work, and you’ve got to come back stronger.”

Jeff Gordon came back to perform stronger in 2011 than he has in recent years and scored three victories with new crew chief Alan Gustafson. 

It marked the first time Gordon had put together a multiple win season since 2007. 

Gordon’s victory in the second race of the season at Phoenix kicked off the solid season that also included wins at Pocono as well as an historic effort at Atlanta when the four-time series champion registered his eighty fifth career victory.




The win put Gordon alone in third-place on the all-time series victory list and he was overwhelmed by the presentation from NASCAR president Mike Helton in victory lane.

"Everybody knows when Mike Helton speaks he has a way with words," Gordon said. "So to be up there, get presented that beautiful plaque that they put together with all the victories, just looking back on all the people that have contributed to it from Hendrick Motorsports, different crew chiefs and crew members and guys in the engine shop. I mean, it’s a team effort." 

But despite carrying tremendous momentum into the Chase, Gordon stumbled and in the end was eighth in the final point standings. 

"It's just disappointing because I feel like Alan is a guy that deserves a championship and deserves to be up there battling for one,” Gordon said. “He proved it with Mark (Martin) and I thought we were going to prove it this year with the way we were running leading into the Chase so it's disappointing, but I'm hoping that next year now having a year under our belt and we get along well. I've got just a ton of respect and belief in him and I feel the same thing is in return that puts us in position to have a great year next year." 

Like Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. enjoyed a comeback season that saw the sport’s perennial most popular driver make the Chase for the first time in three seasons. 

While Earnhardt wasn’t able to end his now three year winless drought, he was as competitive as he’s ever been during his tenure at Hendrick and finished the campaign seventh in the standings. 

Earnhardt gave much of the credit for his turnaround to the relationship shared with new crew chief Steve Letarte, who took the reigns of the No. 88 team last season. 

"We just have a lot in common and our personalities make it where it seems like it's easy for us to have a conversation," Earnhardt said. "I've been spending a ton of time around the hauler all day long during each day on Friday and Saturday and when you're sitting there you just never know when that idea or that thought is going to come into your head or come into [Letarte's] head about what might really be able to help the car.

"And if you just sit around long enough, eventually it's going to pop up and I want to be there for that conversation; I don't want him texting me on the phone while I'm in the bus going, 'Hey, I think I know what we can do.' I want to be there so that I can understand and talk about it. I think that's helping us." 

Unfortunately the lone Hendrick driver to not make the Chase last season was veteran Mark Martin, who ended his tenure with the organization in 2011.

Martin and crew chief Lance McGrew struggled to find the right balance most of the season. Martin, who will join Michael Waltrip Racing next season, finished the year with only a pair of top 5 finishes.

 

Preview 

Martin’s departure makes way for Kasey Kahne to take the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet. After a one year stint at Red Bull Racing, which included a November victory at Phoenix, Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis bring their considerable chemistry to the Hendrick organization.

"I'll be so excited and happy to get back in a race car, it's crazy," Kahne said. "Joining Hendrick is exciting. It feels good. They've given me such a good opportunity, I need to take full advantage of it and perform. It may take a little bit of time to figure everything out, but I think we can get off to a pretty quick start."

Kahne figures to be a formidable foe for all of his Hendrick teammates including Johnson, who is using the end of his championship streak as motivation in 2012.

“We have a lot to learn from this year and [crew chief] Chad [Knaus] and I have already been in meetings throughout this last week setting up wish lists of what we think we can do better, how we can do a better job at it,” Johnson said. “We are moving forward on next year and figuring out how we can dissect weak spots, if it is on track, you know pit calls have changed dramatically this year, what can I do differently as a driver, all those different components, we are addressing and working on them now.”

Gordon also plans on taking what was accomplished in 2011 as a foundation to build for a better new season.

"It's easy for us to be hanging our heads and think about the disappointments, but I'm also reminded and encouraged of how great of a year this has been for us," Gordon said. "With the three wins -- we did have incredible momentum coming into the Chase so I think as a competitor and as a race team, we certainly are very focused on what we did wrong and what we're going to do to make it better next year."

And season number two of the Earnhardt-Letarte combination also comes with high hopes from the duo.

“We learned a lot last year and had some success,” said Letarte. “We didn’t finish the job by winning races or the championship but I’m very convinced this race team can accomplish those goals in 2012.”
 

Outlook

Only by Hendrick’s high standards could 2011 be considered a down season for the organization. That will happen when you take home five straight titles. But the entire four-car stable should all be considered championship contenders heading into the new season and the entire quartet could very well be in the Chase. All eyes will be on newcomer Kahne as he finally gets an opportunity to run with a stable and solid team, something that was missing during his tenures at Richard Petty Motorsports and Red Bull. Johnson is determined to snap back to championship form while Gordon and Earnhardt bring positive momentum and confidence into 2012. Overall this powerhouse team will be a major factor in the coming season.


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Posted on: December 26, 2011 12:03 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 5:19 pm
 

Team Review/Preview: Red Bull Racing

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Kahne's November win at Phoenix was bittersweet as Team Red Bull shut down less than two weeks later)

Review

Nobody knew it when the season began, but 2011 turned out to be a swan song for Red Bull Racing. 

The energy drink giant, which served as both owner and sponsor of the two-car Sprint Cup team since its inception, decided to pull out of NASCAR and end its foray in big time stock car racing. 

Although that news didn’t officially come until near midseason, it had a tremendous impact on the organization, and general manager Jay Frye was charged with the daunting task of trying to field a competitive team while at the same time searching for investors to keep the doors open after 2011. 

As the behind the scenes drama unfolded the scenes drama unfolded the on-track product was a mixed bag between drivers Kasey Kahne and Brian Vickers

Kahne, who came to the team on a one-year deal before moving to Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, was a pleasant surprise. Kahne and long-time crew chief Kenny Francis were a formidable combination and turned in an impressive campaign that included eight top five and 15 top 10 finishes topped by a November trip to Victory Lane at Phoenix International Raceway. 

The win was bittersweet as it came ahead of the news that Red Bull would be shuttered for good in a matter of days. 

“I wouldn't say there's anyone out there that's building better cars at this time,” Kahne said in Victory Lane. “The Red Bull guys are doing an awesome job and they haven't given up.

“It's tough to hear ... it's shutting down in eight days. Over the last three months, you have one of the top five cars in NASCAR shutting down, and that's crazy. I think it's just the people. They haven't given up. They're doing a great job. We've been able to stay focused.”

Although Kahne failed to make the Chase, he was especially strong during the playoff portion of the schedule with seven top 10 runs in the final 10 races of the season. 

“Things started to click for sure and it’s because of the hard work by everybody inside the race team,” Kahne said. “Everyone was working under difficult conditions not knowing what the future held and that made what we were able to accomplish that much more impressive in my mind. I can’t thank everyone enough for their dedication.” 

While Kahne and Francis were building momentum together before their move to Hendrick next season, teammate Brian Vickers was the center of controversy. 

Vickers struggled throughout the season, scoring three top five finishes but ending up 28th in the final Sprint Cup standings. 

His troubles began in late June was he was involved in a pair of on track scuffles with Tony Stewart at Infineon Raceway, and things got worse from there. 

Vickers mustered only a pair of finishes better then 10th after the trip to Sonoma and found himself in a nasty feud with Matt Kenseth as the season wound down. 

Vickers and Kenseth tangled several times in the October Martinsville race, which ended in the pair intentionally paying each other back in the closing laps. 

The race featured 18 caution flags with Vickers part of five yellows. 

"I certainly understand that if you're unfairly wrecked, regardless of who that person is, there's a chance retaliation is going to happen," Jimmie Johnson said after getting swept up in the Vickers retaliation to Kenseth in the final laps. "After a fourth, fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking about maybe you're the problem. Something is going on. You're having a bad day. You need to stop crashing for whatever reason." 

Things boiled over two weeks later at Phoenix when Vickers made contact with Kenseth’s car as the duo raced through Turn 3. 

Kenseth was sure the incident was intentional. 

“You have someone that has been telling everybody for four or five weeks that as soon as he got a chance at a fast race track he was going to make it hurt and wipe us out and they do nothing about it. It was so premeditated it just surprises me that they didn’t do anything,” Kenseth said in the aftermath of NASCAR not penalizing Vickers for the move. 

Vickers denied doing anything wrong.

“He just lifted halfway down the backstretch,” Vickers said. “I was planning on paying him back, but he just lifted halfway down the backstretch. He just stopped. I don't know why. If he wants to doubt us, that's fine.”


Preview 

Despite the effort by Frye, news of the team’s official demise came just days after the season ended in Homestead.

Frye had hoped to find new owners to remain in business and then bring in sponsors but was unsuccessful on both counts and the Sprint Cup garage will shrink by two full-time entries in 2012.

“It’s a very tough thing to deal with,” said Frye, who was forced to watch the 5-year-old team close its doors. “We had some success but in the end the business just wasn’t able to sustain itself when Red Bull decided to change direction. I’m sad but at the same time proud of what the people inside this organization were able to accomplish.”

Kahne is off to Hendrick next season while Vickers' name has not been associated with any ride for 2012.

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Posted on: November 13, 2011 8:14 pm
 

Kasey Kahne, Kenny Francis post Phoenix comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

KASEY KAHNE:  It was a big win for the whole Red Bull team.  All our guys did an awesome job.  To win on a track like this, it was technical at times.  Early in the race, it was different than any time I've been on it.

It was just different.  We had to work on the car as the rubber came on the track, then it started changing more.  It was a hard-fought day.  The Red Bull team did a great job with the pit stops and the adjustments throughout the race to get us back to the front, just put us in position to have a shot.

THE MODERATOR:  Joining Kasey is crew chief Kenny Francis.  Talk about the day today from the pit box.

KENNY FRANCIS:  From the pit box, the track changed a lot.  It wasn't really surprising.  I think everyone knew it was going to do something, we just didn't know what.  Everyone was kind of guessing.

We started, went in one direction, then had to turn around and go back in the other direction to get the car to work.

All in all we made a lot of adjustments on the car.  Actually got it reasonable and pretty fast at the end.  So we were pretty happy with it.

THE MODERATOR:  We'll open it up for questions.

Q.  Your team is supposed to be shutting down in eight days.  Kasey, you're second in points during the Chase behind only Edwards and Stewart.  How have you put this streak together with the pressure of knowing the team is closing down around you?

KASEY KAHNE:  Well, we're lucky that everybody kept working hard and has stayed after it, preparing great racecars.  We're bringing awesome cars to the track.

KENNY FRANCIS:  Brand-new car.

KASEY KAHNE:  Brand-new car.

I wouldn't say there's anyone out there that's building better cars at this time.  The Red Bull guys are doing an awesome job and they haven't given up.

It's tough to hear you say it's shutting down in eight days.  Over the last three months, you have one of the top-five cars in NASCAR shutting down and that's crazy.

I think it's just the people.  They haven't given up.  They're doing a great job.  We've been able to stay focused.  I love racing.  If I'm in a racecar, I want to do the best that I can.  Kenny Francis has given me some cars in the last few months that we've been able to perform with and run with Carl and Tony, who have been probably the two best.

Q.  What are your impressions of driving on the track?  I know there was some concern coming here.  Kenny, what kind of information did you have coming in that you could use and what did you have to gather as you went  along this weekend?

KASEY KAHNE:

From my side, to me, other than the track being slippery, and that's a hard tire a brand-new surface, it takes time to rubber in, takes time to get old and gritty and things.  So the entry to the corners are slippery.  The car slides a little bit more than you would like.  That's part of this place.  It's actually like that with the old track, too.  It's flat when you turn off the wall.  It's somewhat of a slippery, technical track at times.

As the rubber went onto the racetrack, I really think this place is cool and I think it's only going to get better as time goes on.

I think it raced probably the best I can remember a brand-new race surface racing on the first race.  I think it's only going to get better, be a pretty exciting track.  I think you're going to have a lot of the drivers, teams, fans, looking forward to racing at Phoenix, looking forward to coming to Phoenix twice a year.

KENNY FRANCIS:  For my part of the question, what kind of information we had to work with.  We had the test back in October where we gathered a lot of information, ran a lot of laps here.  Kind of got an idea what we thought the car kind of liked as far as the setup, which was different than what we had run here in the past, because we ran good here in the spring here on the old track that was completely different from that.

We felt like it was sort of similar to Loudon and we used that kind of as a basis for our thoughts.  We raced a different setup than we tested.  We raced a different setup than Loudon.  You're thinking in those kind of directions.

Once we started the race, we knew the track was going to be a lot different than how we practiced.  We knew it was going to change through the day; we just didn't know what it was going to do.  We were fortunate to be able to adjust correctly and get our car pretty good.

Q. Kasey, coming into Red Bull, being a newbie there, what do you think is the difference between the type of performance you've been able to put up there and the performance of your teammate Brian Vickers?

KASEY KAHNE:  I think like coming to Red Bull, it was exciting for me.  It was something new, a change.  I was really looking forward to coming over here and having one strong year here.  I've been able to work with Kenny and Keith.  We just keep trying to get a little bit better each week.  They keep trying to give me things to make me be able to go around the track as fast as I can.

I'm not sure how Brian and those guys go at it, but he's been a great teammate.  Ryan Pemberton has been great to work with.  Always has a ton of enthusiasm.  They're both in Victory Lane after the race congratulating us.  They're right there in all of our debriefs and things.  It's been a lot of fun working with those guys.

Like I said, I was excited to go to Red Bull this year, to be able to have fun and have a good teammate and work with a lot of good people over there.  It's been cool.  It's been a lot of fun.

Q.  Kenny, can you give a short explanation of why have you entered here a third car?  Will you enter a third car in Homestead?  (Question regarding the Red Bull team ownership.)

KENNY FRANCIS:  I think they ran the third car with Cole because Cole has been a Red Bull driver.  They just wanted to give him a shot.  We had the equipment in the shop.  It was just a matter of putting it together and bringing it out here for him.

As far as I know, Cole is going to run next week, which I think is good.  I think Cole is a good guy.  He deserves to have a shot and get some experience.

As far as anything with the selling of the team or whatever, I don't really have any knowledge of any of that.  I couldn't speak to that even if I did.  But I have no idea what's going on with that.

Q.  You both have known this was a one-year deal, then heading off to Hendrick.  Can you talk about the emotions of getting Red Bull possibly its last win as an organization.

KASEY KAHNE:  It feels really good.  Hopefully it's not their last win.  I think we're going to have a shot next week, too.  I'm looking forward to Homestead.

It feels great to get a win for Red Bull and get a win in the 4 car.  It's something new for both of us to come over and have a one-year deal.  It takes time to get familiar with things and the people and working together.  To win a race at this level, as competitive as everything is right now, for myself, to see how happy all the pit crew guys were, the guys preparing the racecars at Red Bull, it was pretty cool.  Makes you feel pretty good to be part of that.

KENNY FRANCIS:  From my perspective, like he said, hopefully we have a shot at it next week, too.  We got a good chance.

The biggest thing for me is how proud I am of the guys that put these cars together.  We built all these things in-house, pretty much the hole thing.  So to see this team, it's kind of go their own way, do their own thing type of team.  We feel like we've been growing all year and getting better and better and better.  To finally cap it off with a win, I'm excited for the guys that built these cars and put all the effort into making this happen.

We're just kind of the tip of the iceberg.  There's a lot going on underneath for sure.  Those guys deserve a lot of credit and a lot of pats on the back for this win, for sure.

Q.  Kasey, was this a statement win for you of sorts, proving you can get a win in this equipment, basically you're not biding your time before you take off for Hendrick Motorsports?

KASEY KAHNE:  We have great cars.  I feel each week I'm going to the racetrack with as good a car as anybody out there, which has been really nice this season.

Yeah, we haven't won in a while.  There's been a lot of ups and downs.  We were able to finally put a whole race together today, a little luck.  Everything that falls into winning a race, we had it today.  That's what you need to win at this level.

It feels great to win.  I look forward to next year and look forward to Homestead.  Every time I get to race a car, I look forward to.  It's pretty cool to get to do what I do.

Q.  Kasey, as a driver who has won multiple times, then the long drought, it's been since '09, what does this win do for you?

KASEY KAHNE:  Well, I think it gives you confidence.  It's a great time to win, late in the season, with a two-month off-season coming up.  Definitely a good time to win a race.

But these last couple months, I don't know if it's 10 races or 12 or 15, we've been really competitive and really fast.  There at the beginning of the that when we got competitive, we had a little bit of bad luck, things happened, didn't get the results we were looking for.  But since it's been great.

So I've been each weekend going into the race feeling confident and feeling like we had a shot.  Then to win a race, it boosts you even more, boosts the guys.  Those pit crew guys, they've really stepped up the last couple guys which is exciting from my standpoint.  I come into the pits, know we're going to have a good stop, know we're going to be in the mix still.  That's pretty good.

Like Kenny said, there's a lot of people under us that have really performed, really put in a lot of time and effort into this so that the 4 car was able to win today.

Q.  Kasey, in Victory Lane you talked about how it took time to get adjusted at Red Bull, took time to learn the cars and everything.  How do you feel about what next year is?  Is it going to be starting over again?  How do you look at the start of next season?

KASEY KAHNE:  I think anytime you change, it's going to be different.  We were able to test the 5 car at Charlotte.  Some of the feelings and things were definitely different than what we have right now, what I've had in the past.  So you have to figure that out.

As long as myself and Kenny are communicating well and trying to work together, we go to lunch a lot, try to run through things, think about stuff, hopefully we can figure it out pretty quickly.

This season we started off pretty good at times and there were other times we were down a little bit.  Hendrick Motorsports has a really good platform.  They have a lot of people there that are solid.  I feel like we can step in there and be pretty competitive off the bat.  It's going to take time to be really strong - as strong as what we want to be when we're racing over there.

Q.  Kasey, although you're not in the championship Chase, we have two really determined drivers left.  How do you look back as a fellow racer and size that battle up?

KASEY KAHNE:  It's been fun to watch from my standpoint.  I think the last couple weeks I started right behind them.  They started the two spots in front of me.  I raced with them, right behind them.  To be able to beat them today feels pretty good.

They've put on a great show.  Carl has been really consistent and really fast all season long.  Tony's stepped up like no other in the Chase.  It's pretty impressive what those two guys have done.  It's going to be the same way at Homestead.  I feel like it's going to go right to the end of that race before we know who is going to be the champion.

Hopefully we're in the mix because you know those two are going to be up front.

 

 
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Posted on: November 6, 2011 8:36 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2011 9:21 pm
 

Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne post Texas comments

Posted by Pete Pistone


KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, we had a really good Red Bull Toyota. Moved up right away at the start at that long run. Then we just kind of stayed there from about fifth to seventh, trying to get a little bit more speed. The car was just a little bit too loose to get much further than that.           

We pitted. The caution came out. Ended up in the front. Then we were strong. We were battling there with Tony, who I felt was definitely the best car throughout the whole race. We battled with him for a while. Took four, got back to eighth, came back to third.           

It was a good run. Track position was a big deal. Even on those long runs, it would get spread out. The guy out front could make up some ground. You needed to be as close to the front as possible.           

The whole team did a good job. We were pretty close.           

I watched Tony and Carl. They're going for it. Tony raced me as hard as he ever raced me. I had to race as hard as I could. They're trying to get as many points as they can. It's intense trying to win these races right now. It's super close.           

THE MODERATOR: Questions.            

Q. Certainly Tony has been strong here on the mile-and-a-half's. What do you see out of him, that team, during the Chase where things picked up?           

KASEY KAHNE: Well, I mean, they have great cars, great engines. It's a great organization over there. I think what they got in the last little while is confidence. Tony knows he's the fastest guy here. His crew's behind him. They're doing everything right.           

The problem is they're going against Carl, who also think he's the fastest guy here. It's going to be good. It's going to be really good all the way up till the end, especially if nobody has issues car-wise or makes a mistake, crash, get caught up in someone else's deal. It's going to be fun to watch.            

Q. What about you guys? A lot of guys wrote you off.           

KASEY KAHNE: Last week those guys wrecked in front of us. Went four laps down. The Red Bull team just keeps doing a good job. They're working hard. It's pretty impressive for a lot of them not knowing their future, not knowing what's going on there, if there will be a two-car team or one-car team to keep putting the cars on the track like they are.           

I'm happy to come to the track and drive and work with Kenny Francis and the whole team.           

Q. Did y'all have any tire trouble?           

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, we didn't have any. Kenny thought the left sides were tearing up pretty good, so we took four. I think seven cars in front of us, Carl and Tony, four or five others, took two. We came out eighth just because of that. Seemed like two tires were pretty good. Wasn't a huge advantage to have four like I thought it might be.            

Q. Kasey, don't mean to put you on the spot, but who you putting your money on over the next two weeks?           

KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think I kind of answered that a minute ago. I said Tony thinks he's the guy right now. The guy he's going against think he's the guy. It's going to be a battle to the end.          

Truthfully I have no idea. I know both of them have a lot of confidence and have been strong. It will be interesting. I wish I was in the Chase. But not being in the Chase, it's pretty fun to sit there and watch. I'm excited to watch all the way through the finals at Homestead.           

Q. How much are you looking forward to taking the information you got here with you over to Hendrick Motorsports next season?          

KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think what Kenny Francis does, kind of the way we do things might be a little bit different than Hendrick. The way they do things is really positive, too.           

It will be fun to put it all together. There's tracks where they beat us bad and there's tracks where we run pretty well. Hopefully we can all put it together and make some gains, make Hendrick Motorsports a little bit stronger than it already is.           

THE MODERATOR: Kasey, thank you.           

We're joined in the media center by tonight's second-place finisher, Carl Edwards. He walks away with a three-point lead.           

Carl, you didn't get the win, but you are still at the top of the Chase. Talk about that and your run tonight.           

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, proud of our guys for turning what looked like was going to be a bad night overall, or a disaster really in the points, into something that was really manageable, something we can move forward with.           

Obviously definitely we wanted to beat Tony tonight and pad that lead a little bit. At the end of the day we can walk out of here with our heads up. We're still the points leaders. The third and fourth guys, I'm not sure how far back they are, but we had to open up a little bit of space on them, which is good.           

Man, we're just going to hold Tony to it. They're going to have to run that well to beat us these next two races. I think really it's going to be a great battle. I'm excited about it.           

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Carl.            

Q. Carl, I had the impression around lap 150 that you lost a little bit of speed and the second part of the race you improved. Can you tell me what kind of changes you had done.           

CARL EDWARDS: We struggled a little bit with the balance. The car was kind of all over the place. I was really proud of the guys for getting it tuned back in. At the end, I think if we would have had one more stop, we could have made another adjustment, made it a little better. I'm sure everybody could say the same thing.          

We never got it quite right. Like I said in here on Thursday or Friday, we gave the best performance we could. We lost a little bit of ground. But it could have been a lot worse. So I'm really proud of my guys. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't do anything differently. That was a good, solid race for us.            

Q. Looking forward to Phoenix, what do you anticipate there? You did two tire tests there. What do you think of the tire? What do you think your chances are? Did you have confidence when you left the place?           

CARL EDWARDS: I think that Phoenix is still a huge unknown. Tony was out there at that tire test with us. I got to see how good those guys were.           

I feel like we're going to be pretty good. Yeah, I think really the surprising thing for all of us today was how well Tony ran here. I didn't expect him to run quite that well. Those guys, they did a really good job. It makes me think that Homestead could be a lot closer than I expected before this race.           

We'll go to Homestead with the same package, same ideas, and hopefully have a similar performance. It looks like Tony might be in the same boat. Their mile-and-a-half program is good.           

We really think next week at Phoenix has a larger opportunity by a landslide to change the outcome of this Chase. That one will be a very important race. You know what I'm saying? If Tony and I run 1-2 at Homestead, there's not going to be much points change if we run like we did tonight, but Phoenix has the potential to be huge.            

Q. Carl, you and Tony raced pretty clean on the track. Tony has been throwing down for the last two weeks. I recall last year Jimmie Johnson talking about Denny Hamlin, Jedi mind tricks. At some point are you going to do your Jedi mind tricks on Tony?           

CARL EDWARDS: No. I go out and compete as hard as I can. It is fun to joke around a little bit. But at the end of the day, I mean, any extra energy I spend thinking about other stuff or worrying about other things is not spent in the right place. I'm focusing on what I'm doing. It would be really fun to be standing up there last one on stage at the banquet. I might have a couple jokes then. That would be a good time for them. I learned early in life you have to be careful about throwing the jabs out there. Somebody might get you.           

Q. Carl, you said you were surprised a little bit about Tony's performance here today. Can you explain why you were surprised. Secondly, that team can say for three straight weeks they've gained points on you. You are still the points leader, but how do you address that with your team because in situations like this it can be easier being the pursuer?          

CARL EDWARDS: I think we're very fortunate to have led the points for as long as we have this season. I think the guys, I know myself, have a certain comfort level with it. We've watched the guys make runs at us and then fall away.           

At the end of the day it truly doesn't matter what the 14 team does or what Tony does or what anyone else does. All we can do is just go do the best we can do. It might feel comfortable to them to be the position they're in, to be gaining points. But truly the past is history. We've got to go out and run these next two races.           

Yeah, I don't underestimate them for a second. I know how good they are. But we're going to be good, as well.            

Q. What surprised you about them tonight?           

CARL EDWARDS: I was surprised they were able to put together two weeks that were so good. That was really good work on their part.  There's nothing saying that that will play into another solid two weeks after that, but it very well could.           

We're going to go home, work hard, put all our notes together from our test at Phoenix, do the best we can.           

From the way practice went and everything, I thought we'd have a little bit more of an advantage. I thought we'd have a little advantage tonight. They did all their jobs very well.            

Q. The last few years in the Nationwide Series till the bitter end you chased the eventual champion, whether it was Kyle or Clint. How do you think that experience of just being there until the very end and never giving up has affected what you're going through right now?           

CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. I forget about those things. But I guess you keep the lessons with you. I think at least to this point the story of our season, the story of this Chase for us has been never quitting, never giving up. No matter how well someone runs, we're going to be right there racing them every lap, racing them hard.           

I think that having those championship battles in the Nationwide Series, a couple in the Cup Series lately, I think they've made us tougher in general and a little wiser. I guess the best way to sum it up is to say I feel more comfortable in this points battle than in any other points battle I can remember. I feel like we only have to worry about one other guy. We still have the advantage in the points. I've raced Tony long enough, I feel comfortable with him, he's not going to surprise me with anything. I'm grateful for all that experience. I hope I can turn that into a championship.            

Q. It seemed like an extremely clean race. Do you think a lot of the drivers after they kind of saw the 'boys have at it' get out of control Friday night decided to temper things a little bit?           

CARL EDWARDS: This track lends itself to clean racing. It's so fast. It's easy to drive a little bit sideways. You don't lose control as quickly. It's a fun racetrack.           

There might have been a little more restraint on the part of all the drivers just because of what happened. I can say for myself, I didn't really think about it that much during the night tonight. I think Phoenix will be the test. Everybody is going to be fighting for a place in line on the bottom. You'll see the test of how big a message NASCAR got across there at Phoenix.            

Q. Were you at all aware of Burton's fuel situation at the end?           

CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I never cheered so hard for Jeff Burton in my life (smiling). If I could have loaned him some fuel, I would have.        

That's what they had to do. I thought that was a good move. They had to do that. I'm sure Bob thought about doing that, thought about us doing it. But as early as he ran out, I'm glad we didn't. I think we did the right thing to stay out there.          

I'm really proud of Bob. On a side note, I think he's been a really good leader throughout this whole thing. He's not let me lose my head, he's not flailed and tried for something crazy. He's a huge part, if not the most important part, of why we're leading the points right now.

 
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Posted on: November 5, 2011 2:10 pm
 

Texas Happy Hour to Kasey Kahne

By Pete Pistone

AAA TEXAS 500 FINAL PRACTICE

Kasey Kahne was the fastest of the weekend's final Sprint Cup Series practice session at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Team Red Bull driver recorded a lap of 185.912 mph in his Toyota to pace the last practice before Sunday's AAA Texas 500.

Marcos Ambrose, David Ragan, Regan Smith and Jeff Burton were the top five.

David Reutimann recorded the sixth fastest lap but hsi team was forced to change an engine and he will start Sunday's race from the rear of the field.

Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart and pole siter Greg Biffle rounded out the first ten.

Kyle Busch sub Michael McDowell was twenty-eighth on the timesheet.

Sunday's AAA Texas 500 is slated for a 3:15 p.m. ET green flag.

 
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Posted on: October 14, 2011 7:24 pm
 

Final Charlotte practice led by Kahne

By Pete Pistone

BANK OF AMERICA 500 FINAL PRACTICE

Kasey Kahne led the way in Friday's last Sprint Cup Series practice of the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kahne's lap of 188.153 mph in his Team Red Bull Toyota topped the field as drivers tuned up for Saturday night's Bank of America 500.

Paul Menard, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton were the fastest five of the session.

Clint Bowyer crashed his Richard Childress Racing Chevrole and will start Saturday night's race from the rear of the field in a back-up car.

 
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Posted on: October 13, 2011 5:51 pm
 

Kahne leads first Charlotte practice

By Pete Pistone

BANK OF AMERICA 500 PRACTICE ONE

Kasey Kahne continued his late season surge by leading the way in Thursday's first Sprint Cup Series practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kahne, who finished second to Jimmie Johnson last Sunday at Kansas Speedway, turned a lap of 191.455 mph in his Team Red Bull Toyota to pace the field.

Paul Menard, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin and Regan Smith were the fast five.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying for Saturday night's Bank of America 500 is slated for 7:10 p.m. ET.

 
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