Kahne won last Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway to give Red Bull an emotional sendoff – and to create momentum for his move to Hendrick Motorsports next season. After the race, he talked about his season and his future. Here are excerpts of that interview:
Q: Does this prove you weren’t going through the motions at Red Bull while waiting to make the move to Hendrick?
A: 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: Red Bull is supposed to shut down after this Sunday’s race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Has it been difficult around the Red Bull shop in the final months of the season?
A: 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. 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 (a few) 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 (crew chief) has given me some cars in the last few months that we’ve been able to perform with and run with Carl (Edwards) and Tony (Stewart), who have been probably the two best.
Q: How does it feel to possibly give Red Bull its final victory?
A: 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 (No.) 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.
Q: How do you size up the championship between Edwards and Stewart?
A: 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.
Q: How does it feel to break a winless streak that dates back to the 2009 season?
A: 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.