Kahne Breaks His Slump to Win Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400

Kasey Kahne won his first race since 2014 with a victory Sunday in the Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kahne fought weather delays, numerous yellow flags and even a few red flags to take down the win. His post-race press conference transcript is below:

THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by the winner of today’s race, Kasey Kahne, driver of the No.5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.
Kasey, you had quite a race out there today. Your first victory since 2014, your 18th career victory. It was one of those wild, crazy, did?that?kind?of?happen kind of days, then you find your way to Victory Lane. How were you able to make that happen today?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, I was just not going to give up. First off, the strategy worked out perfectly when we pitted and got to the lead. We had been running 11th to 14th, somewhere in there I feel like. Had a pretty good car at the time, once we got it to turn. Early on, it was on the tight side. Once we got it to turn, it was actually pretty quick. We just needed to get the track position.
Everything worked out perfectly on that strategy. We got to the front, then it was restart after restart. We got the first one, was pulling away, then there was a wreck. The second one, we were three?wide into three, there was a wreck. Then the next one, Keselowski kind of figured out how to get the lead there. Then the final one, we were able to get the lead back.
I had a great car out front. I had a pretty good car all day long. It was just a matter of kind of getting that last little bit of turn in the car, then controlling the track bar to keep rear grip in it as the tires wore off.
I was really happy. Unbelievable to win at Indianapolis. Unbelievable to win a Cup race. It’s been a while. It feels really good for myself and my confidence. I know it’s great for our team. We needed it as a team.
Just really, you know, excited. Indy, I moved here in 1999, live here for three summers, raced Sprint cars, midgets all around the area. This was the track that I always wanted to win at, and dreamed of racing at.
Me and my dad, when we first moved here, we got (indiscernible) shop on Gasoline Alley. We came over, went to the museum, then got on a bus. They bused us around the track. Got to feel the track in a bus. That was a really cool day. That was in 1999. That was a blast to be part of that with my dad.
Then to be able to race here starting in ’04. Came close at winning some races early on, led a lot of laps in ’12 or ’13. Was close again. To pull it off this year, it’s unbelievable.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open up the floor to questions.

Q. If you’re the leader going into over time like you were, is that race you should win if you are a Hendrick driver, considered to be an elite driver?
KASEY KAHNE: I think it’s one of those things that you as a driver, you know, all you’re trying to do is everything correctly, and control. As the leader, you’re trying to control it, right? That’s your prize for being the leader, is to control the restart. They put marks on the wall. You get to control it in those areas.
I didn’t get to control that one restart, so I was confused as can be why the guy in second gets to control the start. Then before I was even going, I was getting pushed from behind because the inside row was going. It made sense why Denny was pushing me. I’m the one that gets to control it.
That one didn’t work out very well. The other ones did. The final one, we started second. I had a great restart, you know, engine?wise, gearing?wise, was able to clear Brad off turn one. It worked out perfect. We got the win.
As an elite driver, you want to win that, but there’s a bunch of guys that want to win it. You do all you possibly can, and it fell in our favor today.

Q. There has been a lot of talk about your team’s struggles the last couple years. Did you ever wonder if you were going to win again?
KASEY KAHNE: Oh, man, it’s been a while since I’ve won, so… I mean, you have to wonder, like, you know, as a driver all I want to do is win, all I want to do is perform. I put the effort in each week, whether it’s at the shop, whether it’s physically, mentally, at the race shop trying to prepare, watching videos, looking through old notes, how can we be better.
My team works really hard, as well. But we haven’t had the performance. We haven’t ran up front. We don’t lead a lot of laps. We don’t lead many laps. Yeah, those things have to cross your mind. If they don’t, something would be wrong, I think.
I think a win like today can give myself confidence and momentum, our whole team a boost, which is something that we need. We work hard, too. But the guys that are winning and running up front, their momentum, their confidence is tough to keep up with when it’s been a couple years.
Yeah, I feel like this is a huge win for us. Being the Brickyard means even more to me. One of the toughest, biggest races that you can win in NASCAR. So, yeah, it feels really, really good.

Q. Three weeks ago you said you still had wins in you, you just didn’t know when they would come. Did you ever dream it would be three weeks later at the Brickyard?
KASEY KAHNE: I don’t know. This is a track I always wanted to win at. Feel like I’ve actually been really fast here since I started. 2004, we had one of the best cars here. Jeff Gordon won. But we had to pass the field from the back, and were able to. I think we were in fourth.
But ’05, battled with Tony all the way to the end. He got his first win at the Brickyard. We were right there with him the whole time. To me, it’s always been a track that I felt really good about and confident with. To win here is unreal.
I’ve been to all the races here. I’ve been to Brickyards, 500s, Formula One races. I went around the track in a bus with my dad. This place is pretty neat. I got kicked offer the track once when I was at Gasoline Alley. I was jogging, I came here, jumped a fence, because I wanted to run around the racetrack. It didn’t take but probably two minutes and they were on me in a truck. It wasn’t like a race weekend, it was an open day.
It’s pretty wild. This is a neat place. Spent a lot of time here thinking and dreaming about winning at this track. Literally just racing at it was pretty awesome.

Q. You talk about all the technical stuff you did. How deep was the determination to accomplish that being a special place to you?
KASEY KAHNE: Absolutely. I was sitting on the frontstretch after they gave the 2 the lead. We were sitting there for 20 minutes or 15 minutes. All I could think about was what can I do here, what can I do here to not let this go.
I could picture a couple restarts in my mind from other racetracks. Myself and Jeff Gordon had a restart here in ’12 or ’13. I could picture those things, trying to run through my mind on what I needed to do. It worked out.
I knew I needed separation when I got to turn one. We were able to get back to the throttle right away, get clear. So, yeah, the determination was there.
My body was lacking fluid. I was cramping pretty badly. But it didn’t matter at that point. It was just all about trying to win at the Brickyard.

Q. Talk about how you’re feeling now and what it was like the last few laps, and what sent you to the infield care center?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I feel really good now. I went and got some IV, a huge bag of fluid. I feel great. I feel like I could probably go racing right now (laughter).
I was struggling there. Before the first red, my left leg was cramping. I knew then I was out of fluids. My calf, my left calf, had started long before that under braking. After the reds, my right leg started, my chest, my rib and my left arm. It just kept getting worse.
But I’ve cramped before, so it wasn’t like the end of the world or anything. But like on the restart, as soon as I get to wide open throttle, my leg would cramp out. So then it was kind of like to back pedal and stuff was a bit annoying.
But it was what it was. I just sweated way too much, I guess. I didn’t drink near enough fluid. I work out really hard, I bike, I train, run, do a lot of different things, swim. Didn’t really help me today, I don’t think.

Q. Just wondering now that you’re in the Playoffs, how do you move forward with the 5 team? What did Rick Hendrick say to you in Victory Lane?
KASEY KAHNE: He was just really excited and proud of us to finally get a win. I slapped all my guys five on the wall, just felt really good about that, seeing the guys up on the wall, how excited they were. I climbed back in the car. It was a late race, you’re not going to do an interview out there. Need to get to Victory Lane.
I saw him standing at the gate. He was trying to come over. He came over. He was just really happy that we won. Just told me, Great job. Asked me if I needed any fluids and things. He could see I was hurting.
Yeah, it was just neat. It’s always neat to win. Like ever since I started racing for anybody, even my dad, even Steve Lewis back when I raced the 91 car here, the midget, if you see the owner after you win, how happy they are, how excited they are, that’s a great feeling. That’s what I saw with Mr. H today. It felt really good.
I have that same feeling when Brad Sweet, Darren Pittman win Sprint car racing. It just feels really good. You’re proud of them. You’re proud of your driver, your team. You’re proud of what you do, what you put into the sport, as an owner.
Like, it was neat to see him come over to the car, give me a hug. I’m in the car, so he couldn’t really get in there. Worked out pretty well.

Q. How to you approach the Playoffs?
KASEY KAHNE: We’re a little ways away from the Playoffs. We need to keep getting better. I think we really need to figure out how to qualify better, get that track position. Today the track position was key. Once I got to the front, I felt great. When I was in clean air in the back, I felt great, too. It was just a matter of getting to where we needed to be.
We need to really work on that. There’s a couple other things we need to work on with the car, the braking, things I struggled with early on in this race. We fixed it the last half of the race. I was struggling with picking up throttle, how it would point the car in the wrong direction.
We have a lot to work on, for sure, but we are heading the right direction. We won a big race today. I feel good about it, man. I feel like I can still race these cars. I’ve known that, and I’ve wanted to, and I have the passion to. So to be able to get a win at this track, this stage, was great for our whole team today, for sure.

Q. You mentioned earlier it being tough to keep up with the guys who win and have a lot of success in the sense of the confidence. Can you further explain what the challenge is. This is only one race, how this might help.
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I think it helps me personally. I think it helps. It has to help the driver. But from a team standpoint, when you’re, like, working as hard as you can every single week, putting in tons of hours, you’re away from your family, all this stuff’s going on, you’re not getting results for two years. At some point, there’s no way me as a driver or my team guys are doing what some of the other teams are doing. I mean, it’s just the way that life is, I think. It’s the way that we work.
So I would hope that this would give us all confidence and give us momentum and push us to, yeah, we’ve been at the shop, giving 100%, but now we really are giving 100%. Now we’re really excited to go to the next race because we didn’t run 15th or 18th or crash today, we actually won the Brickyard 400. So I just think that it helps me and it helps my guys.
I don’t see how that can’t make us better the last 17 races of the year.

Q. How much will this help you?
KASEY KAHNE: Maybe just be more, like, excited to be at the track, you know, more excited. I love driving the cars. I love racing. I go and race my Sprint car when I have time because I enjoy that stuff. But just be a little more happy in doing it.
There are a lot of reasons to be happy. After a win like this, hopefully that gets all of us just pointed in the right direction a little bit better, working for each other a little bit more, having faith in each other. I think all those things help. There has to be things that you lack after a couple years of not winning races.
Especially when you have great?? you know, Jimmie Johnson, the guy still wins, he wins all the time. He’s unbelievable. So to have a teammate like that, then we’re not performing as well as we need to or want to, it’s beats on you a little bit, so…
This has to help.

Q. Rick said the plans aren’t set for the 5 car for next year. Do you think after this win that this could help you stay at Hendrick Motorsports? You just perform the best you can perform, wherever chips kind of fall where they may?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think this just shows I still want to win races. This shows that I gave it all that I can to get a win. It shows that I’m passionate about driving stockcars, that I can still win races, too.
I have a deal through 2018 with Hendrick Motorsports. Hear a lot of things, but tough to say exactly what’s going to happen because I don’t know at this point this time. I know me and Mr. H will figure it out.
But I think this just shows that I want to do it, and that I still have the drive and passion to do it, and I enjoy it. So I’m going to keep trying hard, I know that.

Q. What were you thinking when Jimmie took you three?wide on the backstretch?
KASEY KAHNE: Jimmie didn’t have any options. He had the run. Me and Brad were both?? Brad was probably a little on the tight side being up there, trying to finish the throttle. I was loose. I was sideways under Brad, like slid all the way to his door off turn two. Jimmie was coming from behind, had a little gap getting into the corner, was able to get the run. His only option was to put us three?wide.
But we all had about the same amount of speed down the whole straightaway. Nobody lifted getting into turn three. I’m surprised that two of us even came out of that. I could have saw all three of us being in the wall at that point. We both came out of it. Hate that Jimmie got in that wreck. He was sideways really early. I’d have to watch it again to see it really well, but I felt like he was sideways early coming in my direction pretty quickly. I think I bounced off the 2 also.
It was wild. There’s no other options. It was three?wide going into turn three. That’s the way it was going to be.

Q. Talked to Ricky Craven about being that car at Hendrick Motorsports. You’re not the 24, you’re not the 48, you’re that car. He says everyone wants to tell you what you need to do to improve your job, but you have to find that within. Who have you relied on during this three?year drought, who do you lean on to get through those tough times?
KASEY KAHNE: That’s tough. I mean, that’s actually a really tough question because I don’t really lean on a lot. I think the best thing for me is I get a call from Tanner on FaceTime after a race and I’m instantly happy from my son. Like, that’s who I got to stay happy and grounded in my life.
But as far as the team stuff goes, I just keep trying hard. I keep working hard. I keep wanting it. It just doesn’t seem to happen all the time.
So I don’t know. Just kind of feel like you’re out on your own little deal a lot of times, your own little island, trying to do the best that you can. Things don’t work out too often for us. So it was great to be able to win up, close it, get in front of the 2, at the Brickyard in Indianapolis. It was unbelievable.
But, yeah, I don’t know. I don’t really have anybody, to tell you the truth. I just feel like I kind of enjoy life a lot because of my son and just try to show up at the track and do the best that I possibly can and put the work in during the week, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to run well. Everybody is putting the work in. The competition is so tight, so close. You need that little bit extra all the time. Hopefully this win will give us some of that because we definitely haven’t had that.

Q. You’ve been running up front, but bad luck seems to have plagued you every race. How does it feel to finally be able to burst through that barrier?
KASEY KAHNE: It feels good because I think today was actually the strategy and the way that the caution came at that exact time, it was complete luck. So the luck was on my side more than on anyone else’s today. For us to finish it off and get the win on that type?? I don’t know if I’ve ever won a race before because of luck like that, to get to the front like we did.
I think the strategy, the caution, like the luck was on the 5 car’s side today, and I was able to pull it off. So, yeah, it feels pretty good.