MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- Kasey Kahne has yet to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but it doesn’t stop him from considering it one of his favorite tracks.
“I always like racing at Bristol,” Kahne said Wednesday at Lancaster’s BBQ to promote next month’s Food City 500. “The day race has its own style of racing and the night race has its own style. We’ve led a bunch of laps there and came in second. That’s a big goal of mine to win in the Cup Series at Bristol.”
Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, was a pole winner and finished runner-up in the IRWIN Tools Night Race in August 2007, a weekend he won the Food City 250 Nationwide Series race at Bristol.
However, his three top-five finishes in 18 races on the high-banked short track are offset by three finishes of 40th or worse.
Last season highlighted his inconsistency on the high-banked short track. He was 37th in the Food City 500, but finished ninth at the IRWIN Tools Night Race.
Bristol will provide a different challenge this time around, with the track getting a facelift after last year’s Food City 500, and NASCAR debuting the new Gen-6 race car at last Sunday’s Daytona 500.
In many ways, however, Kahne said it will be the same old Bristol which he was in awe of the first time he saw it.
“The track itself with the banking and how tight everything is, it’s pretty crazy,” Kahne said. “When you go there, you can’t believe you can drive a car that hard on that small of a race track. But, you can. I’ve always thought it’s somewhere we need to win.”
The 32-year-old is coming off his most consistent season on the Sprint Cup tour with two victories and a fourth-place finish in the series point standings. A 14-time race winner and a 26-time pole winner on the Sprint Cup circuit, he feels this season presents his best chance to win a championship. He’s driving for Rick Hendrick, who has 10 Sprint Cup titles as a car owner and someone who has mastered the art of motivation.
“He’s always trying to pump you up, find the little things that you can do better,” said Kahne, a former USAC open wheel champion. “He’s always giving us every single thing we need to win. He gives us that opportunity and as the driver, engineers and crew chiefs, it’s up to us to make it happen. You don’t always have that in racing. It’s difficult to have that type of opportunity, but he always supplies that to us.”
Of course, there is pressure which comes along with having the resources as Kahne pointed out. He explained there is no shortage of racers who would line up to take his spot should he not perform up to standards.
The 2013 season didn’t get off to the start Kahne had hoped for. He finished 36th in the season-opening Daytona 500 after getting tapped by Kyle Busch, which trigged a 12-car pileup.
He’s glad to have Daytona behind him and move to the flat 1-mile Phoenix Raceway for this weekend before the circuit then goes to Las Vegas and Bristol.
“Now it’s time to race,” he said. “You get back to the regular practices, how you want your car to handle, how you think it will be now and later in the race, where you can make each adjustment from there.
“I enjoy Daytona and Talladega, that type of racing, but it’s not Phoenix, Vegas, the normal grind the rest of the season. Bristol we will race how we always race there. To me, it’s now time to race, time to get after it.”