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CHARLOTTE -- Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion, was one of many teams that participated in the first day of a two-day test session at Charlotte Motor Speedway to make laps with the new spoiler. Kahne came to the infield media center to answer questions about today’s test and his season to date.
Q. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THE TEST IS GOING?
A. I think it’s good to get out here. We don’t get a whole lot of tests at race tracks anymore, so it’s nice when we do. I think it’s definitely a help for all the teams. You can try some things that will work at Texas and work at other race tracks as well, and, hopefully, make gains with the cars. The spoiler, to me, feels a bit different. This is the first time I’ve driven it, so down the straightaways it’s a little dragier. The cars feel pretty stuck in the corners, but the tires are a little bit different this year also, so that probably changes that somewhat. But, really, it’s been a pretty good day so far. We’re just trying things and running through some stuff.
Q. CAN YOU TAKE US ON A LAP AROUND THIS TRACK AND HOW IT FEELS INSIDE THE CAR?
A. There are a couple spots here that are pretty big spots that I work on, and it changes so much when we come back for the race with the weather. The track temp is hotter, so the track drives a lot differently in May than it does right now. Right now, there’s a lot of grip and everybody is pretty quick, but that will change a lot in May. There are always a couple spots on entry and the center of the corner that I look for and, hopefully, we can get our car to do the right stuff through those spots – just keeping the front turning and the back in the track – normal things.
Q. CAN YOU DUMB THIS DOWN AND TELL US WHY THIS MATTERS?
A. The back of the car, the downforce and sideforce, all of that stuff matters when you’re racing cars. So far, I haven’t felt a big difference by myself. I think it’s somewhat similar with the spoiler and the wing. On the straightaways the speed is a little different because of the drag side of it, but the car probably handles pretty similar. I think when we get side-by-side and you get racing people, that’s when it’ll be a bigger difference than it is right now. NASCAR is probably just wanting to see the speeds and see how fast the cars are in the corners, how fast they are on the straightaways, the gears – that’s a lot different for this test than what it was last year – so there’s a lot of little things they’re probably trying to figure out as well as the teams, but I think we find out more when we get racing each other.
Q. HARVICK SAID EVEN 10 CARS TOGETHER WOULDN’T BE ABLE TO SIMULATE RACE CONDITIONS. KURT SAID YOU WANT TO GET YOUR TEAMMATES TOGETHER AND TRY TO FIGRUE SOMETHING OUT. WILL YOU TRY TO DO THAT AND GET A FEEL FOR RACE CONDITIONS?
A. When you’re out there and you catch a car, you drive up behind them and you pass them, or they pass you, I think you feel that a little bit over two days of testing. But, really, until you get in the race and until you get with a lot of cars, you don’t know exactly what’s gonna go on. On any given weekend, we don’t race side-by-side in practice. That’s not how we get our cars prepared and set up the way you want them for each race. I think we just test the way we’re going to test and when we come back for the race, you do it normal and I think it will work fine. I think Texas will be a good race. I like the package. I thought it was pretty good right off the bat, so I think it’s been a good change.
Q. YOU’RE 23RD IN POINTS. IS THIS TEST MORE CRITICAL FOR YOU TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE NOT BEHIND?
A. We’re behind right now. I think it’s just the same for everybody and it’s good for us to be able to come here and work on some things. We had a part failure on Sunday. There’s nothing we could do about that. We were fast before it happened, so we’re actually doing pretty good this year. The points don’t show it, but we can easily get to where we need to be, it’s just a matter of not having anymore failures, and not having myself make mistakes like I did at California. If we can get away from that stuff, then we shouldn’t have a problem.
Q. HAVE YOU GOTTEN ENOUGH FEEL FOR THIS TEAM AND FORD AFTER FIVE RACES AS TO A DIRECTION YOU WANT TO GO IN THE FUTURE?
A. Not yet. Like I said, I feel like we’ve had a pretty good five races – seven if you count the other two to start the year – so I feel pretty good about where we’re at and where we can still go this year. We’ve had just a few things go on, but that’s racing and things happen. I think we can recover from that and gain some of those points back pretty quick, and get in the top 12 and win races. I think this is a great test to come here and be prepared for this track in May. There are two really big races here that we’d love to win, and then I also think this helps us for Texas, too. I think it’s good for the 9 guys to be here for sure.
Q. DO YOU NOTICE ANY FEEL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SPOILER AND WING?
A. To me, it has more drag and then in the corners the car seems pretty planted. I think that will be good when you’re racing cars, but there are two things here. This is the first time I’ve driven the spoiler and it’s the first time I’ve driven on this tire. The tire is different than what we had last year, so is it the spoiler I’m feeling in the corner? Is it the tire I’m feeling in the corner? It’s kind of difficult to say, but there’s definitely more drag on the straightaway and then you just work around the feeling in the corner. It’s just fine, but it’s hard to say exactly what’s going on in the corners because this is my first time with the spoiler.
Q. IS MARTINSVILLE THE BEST PLACE TO START WITH THE SPOILER BECAUSE THERE’S LITTLE AERO INVOLVED?
A. I think Martinsville is good, definitely before we get to another fast track is the time to do it. It’s great to have a test here and to practice with it a little bit before we go to some of these places, but I think Martinsville is good. Bristol would have been fine. We started with the wing at Bristol and Kyle won, and we ended with it there and Jimmie won, so they took control of those two races – the start and finish with the wing. So Martinsville is fine.
Q. SPECIFICALLY, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WITH THE SPOILER AT MARTINSVILLE? ARE THE SPEEDS SO LOW THAT IT’S JUST NOT GOING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
A. They’re low and just the way that it feels here, I wouldn’t say that it would make much of a difference, if any difference, at Martinsville. We know it’s gonna race different here just because the speeds are up and it’s completely different than a wing, but it still feels pretty similar, so you get to a short track where there’s not nearly as much air on it, I’d say it’s a wash. Either way, you could go to Martinsville and probably run about the same.
Q. IS THERE ANYWAY THE SPOILER WILL STOP JIMMIE JOHNSON?
A. Let’s hope so. I don’t know (smiling). I wouldn’t say that this is gonna change Jimmie Johnson, but maybe it’ll slow him down. Who knows? Everybody is definitely trying hard. I think everybody is sick of getting beat by Jimmie Johnson, so we just keep working hard and try to figure out how to beat him, but I doubt this will slow him down. I think we need to speed up.
Q. IN THE WING ERA THERE WERE 93 RACES. JIMMIE, KYLE AND CARL WON 46 OF THOSE. DID THEY KNOW SOMETHING OR FIND SOMETHING NO ONE ELSE DID?
A. I think you can look at it and see that they all found something at certain times, but Jimmie has been the most consistent with it and he’s won every single year with that package and been good. Carl won nine in one of the years and I don’t know how many he’s won since, so I think it’s just things that you hit on and things that work for your driving style and the way you hit on stuff. I just think the 48 stays above everybody and they keep hitting on things and working hard. I would say Kyle was the same way as Carl. I haven’t seen Kyle winning many race lately either, so it’s definitely changed. They change each year.