Kasey Kahne has made headlines throughout his debut season on the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. From his narrow losses early in the season to a recent run-in with Tony Stewart that touched off a pit-road melee between the drivers' teams, the baby-faced Washington state native has quickly became one of NASCAR's newest young stars.
Kahne, who drives a Dodge for Ray Evernham, enters this week's race at Pocono Raceway in 14th place in the series' points standings and is leading the Raybestos Rookie of the Year points race.
Kahne took a few minutes this week to talk about his rookie season and his background in racing.
Question: Your season seems to vary a lot. Any thoughts on that?
Kahne: It's really been up and down since the start of the season. We've had some really good races since then, but at the same time we've had a couple bad ones. Most of the races that we weren't in the top 10, we've had problems. We've actually had good enough cars just about every weekend not every weekend, but a lot of the weekends to run in the top 10. We have been up there at times but had problems or something happen. It has just been a part of having a rookie season. I think it has been a great rookie season, but it's definitely been up and down.
Question: Many collegiate athletes have gone into the pros and have said that one of the biggest things they have had to deal with is how do they get around losing. How have you dealt with that after your success in racing's minor leagues?
Kahne: When I was in the USAC cars, I felt like I could win every time I was there. In the cup car now, you feel like as a driver you could win, but there are so many good drivers and so many good race teams that you can't. You have to have everything go right. You have to have a perfect day. And it's not easy to have a perfect day, because there are few cars that do, and you still have to beat them. Its tough to win races in the series, for sure.
Question: With this new format, you definitely still have a shot at getting in the top 10 and qualifying for the "Chase for the Championship". Does that make you a fan of the points system right now?
Kahne: It definitely makes me a fan right now. Even at the start of the year when they started it, I thought it would be something neat to try. It definitely gives a rookie, or somebody that hasn't run consistently enough to be up towards the front in the points, to still have a shot at getting in the top 10 or even winning a Nextel Cup Championship.
Question: How did you get your start, and what made you decide that you wanted to be a race-car driver?
Kahne: It all started when my dad was in sprint cars. Not racing, but working on them and being part of a team. He sponsored a car, and then owned his own. I grew up with it all my life and that was all I ever really watched. When I was finally able to (race), I was just about 15 years old and that is all I focused on. That is all I ever wanted to do so I was open for any direction, and I ended up in NASCAR and it has been great.
Question: Who asked you to come and race in NASCAR? How did that work?
Kahne: Richard Childress was actually the first person to approach me. It was after I had won the Midget Championship (in 2000). He called me up out of the blue when I was at my grandma's house. It was pretty wild. I never really expected a call from somebody like that and he called my cell phone. We won a lot of races and did some pretty cool stuff in the midgets and sprint cars, and Richard Childress called me that year.
Question: How did you get together with Ray Evernham?
Kahne: Ray went to a lot of midget and sprint races. He had watched me for a long time. Last year when I was driving the Great Clips car (on the Busch Series), somehow we ended up starting to talk about things. And by the end of the season, we were trying to put a deal together.
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