RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Driver Kasey Kahne made a stop in southern California to promote the upcoming Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 18. During his visit, he had the opportunity to play guitars with students at the “Rockstars of Tomorrow” in Rancho Cucamonga.
Kahne drives the No. 95 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Leavine Family Racing. The 37-year-old athlete was born in Enumclaw, Wash. He was honored with the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Rookie of the Year award in 2004.
How excited are you for the Auto Club 400 race in Fontana, Calif.?
“I’m looking forward to it…I always do,” Kahne said an in exclusive phone interview. “It’s a great track. It’s tough. It’s really wide and there’s so much racing room out there. I think myself, and all of the drivers, really enjoy racing at this race track.”
What do you love about being in southern California outside of the racing?
“I come out here for the racing, but I’ve always enjoyed southern California. I love the beach. I spent some time in Laguna and other areas. Doing some biking and being outdoors is the best part of southern California to me.”
How did everything go at the “Rockstars of Tomorrow” event?
“We met some really talented kids who taught myself how to play the guitar which was really cool. I haven’t done that before. I enjoyed that and then watched them perform. They were like 10-12 years old. It was really cool to be a part of that.”
Can you tell me more about the new NASCAR rule involving pit guns and your opinion on that?
“Everybody gets the same gun. In the past, the teams put a ton of money into pit guns and having the best and fastest pit guns. It helps your pit stops and your whole entire race. Those days are over for now. Everyone has the same gun so it just makes the pit stops more equal as far as the speed of the gun. It puts everybody on the same playing level. For the guys changing the tires, it makes their job a little bit more competitive and difficult to be the best.”
How are things similar or different with your new team, Leavine Family Racing?
“It’s been a good change at this point. It’s a single car team. I have a really good group. We’re just all working together. It is much different than in the past with the bigger teams and three teammates prior. Not having any now is just a different way to approach each race. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. I think it will be perfectly fine.”
I would like to get your opinion on Danica Patrick retiring and what it means for the sport. I understand you were involved in one or more crashes with her.
“It sounds like she just didn’t want to race anymore. That’s up to her if she wants to do other things. We were in one crash together. I don’t think we were in too many others. I feel like one and it was here at California. I actually crashed her, not intentionally. But that’s what happened and it was my fault. We weren’t very close after that. Things happen. It was a mistake.”
Later this season, you will be coming out to the Michigan International Speedway. What do you like about going out there?
“Well, they repaved it a couple of years ago. So it’s been a much different track. It’s just fast and wide and smooth. It’s a neat place. It’s always been one of my favorite tracks. Now it’s going to get better each year. I think it will be pretty good this year. I’m looking forward to that one.”
What are your goals for the rest of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series season?
“My biggest thing is…things that we learn each week to use them the following week. We always want to be improving as a team. If we work really hard doing that and being prepared for each race, then I feel like our performance will take care of itself. It’s tough to say with a new team how long it will take to get it all figured out. I think we can do really well once we can iron out those items.”
What are some of his hobbies when you’re not racing?
“I do other styles of racing such as dirt racing and going into the mountains. I enjoy the mountains and just being outdoors and trying to be in the water, when it’s hot, in the lakes or the ocean throughout the summer months.”
Would you ever consider going on a reality show such as “Dancing with the Stars”?
“No, not really. I’ve thought about it before when I had those opportunities. It just kind of never really worked for me. I enjoy watching them. Helio Castroneves did good.”
Look for Kasey Kahne to drive the No. 95 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for Leavine Family Racing in the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 18. Tickets start as low as $50 and can be purchased by calling 800-944-RACE or visiting www.autoclubspeedway.com.