Our weekly series of interviews continues: 12 questions with NASCAR drivers who aren't currently in the top 12 of the Sprint Cup Series. Since the Chase drivers already get plenty of publicity, we thought this would be a good way to get to know some of the non-Chase drivers a little better. This week: One of the sport's most popular drivers, Kasey Kahne.
What's the best race you've ever driven?
KK: The best race? That's tough. I'd have to think about that. I think actually more times than not, when you feel like you really did a good job is when you run fourth or third and probably should have finished 10th or something that day. Things happen, right decisions and stuff that end up getting a good finish. To me, those are the times I've felt like I've done a really good job. When you win races, you're up there all night and it just works out.
Who is the most talented driver in NASCAR?
KK: Right now? I'd say Tony Stewart still is. He can drive everything and when it all comes down it, Tony can win at any track and he's very competitive. Like, when he's just completely into racing, I think he's the best driver we've got.
If a new driver enters the sport and asks you one driver he should learn from and one driver he shouldn't, who would you tell him to seek and avoid?
KK: Learn from Jimmie Johnson, because he does everything right. Or you could learn from a Matt Kenseth, he's a good guy, too. And you don't learn from...I don't know (pauses for 30 seconds). Like a top driver you don't learn from? (pauses for 15 more seconds) That's tough. I'd say there's a few I wouldn't learn from (smiles).
When is the best time for a fan to approach you for an autograph at the track?
KK: I'd say on Friday. It's early in the week, and for me, you haven't completely got (caught) up in your car. By Saturday or Sunday, when you have all this other stuff going on at the same time, it starts making it more difficult to spend as much time with fans, for me.
What is something fans may not know about you?
KK: Probably just that I like to have fun. When I'm at the track, I stay really focused on racing. I don't go out, I stay between the race car, bus and appearances. That's what I do. But during the week, when I'm at my best and I'm having fun, I'm up for whatever. And people may not see that, but I think my friends and my family, they (know) I do stuff I probably shouldn't at times.
What is the worst track on the NASCAR circuit?
KK: Well, the worst track for me that we go to is Phoenix. But I actually love going to Phoenix, and I think the fans, the crowd...I really like Phoenix. But it's the worst track for me personally, every year.
What is one thing you would change if you ran NASCAR?
KK: I would say the first thing is if you're going to make a rule, (enforce) it. In the (Darlington Nationwide) driver's meeting for example, I asked a question. He gives me the answer. Not one time in that entire race were we even close to going by the answer. Like, I'm talking we're 100 yards away from the answer he gave me. So that's what I would change. If you tell somebody in the driver's meeting, ‘This is how it is,' then do it. And everybody knows that's not how it is, so everybody just goes and does their own thing. And that was my question: ‘Why?' And he answered it, and then the first pit stop was the exact same thing. If you're going to have a rule on the track during a race, then have somebody watching that rule and make sure you go by it.
What driver outside of NASCAR do you most admire?
KK: Man, there's a lot of good drivers. Maybe like a Scott Dixon (IRL). He works really hard as far as being prepared mentally and physically. He's fast on ovals, road courses. He's fast on any type of track they go to. And he can put a full year together and win a championship. He knows what it takes to be consistent and win. So I'd say Scott Dixon.
How long do you think your driving career will last?
KK: I still feel pretty young (Kahne is 30), so hopefully as long as I can be competitive. Hopefully another 10 years. SBN: So you don't think you'll be driving when you're Mark Martin's age? KK: Don't think so.
What's the first thing you do when you get home from a race?
KK: Not always, but a lot of the time, I'll go grab a beer and sit in the hot tub for awhile and relax. I like doing that. That's the best thing to do. Sometimes we get home at midnight and you just have to jump in the shower and jump in bed. But I like sitting in the hot tub for an hour.
Who wins the Sprint Cup in 2015?
KK: Mark Martin (laughs). SBN: Really? KK: Nah. It's possible, but I'm not going to go with that one. I'll say Joey Logano. Nah, I'm not going to say that. I don't know. This is tough – there are too many good drivers.
Would you rather be known as a great driver or a great person?
KK: Probably a great driver, but I think being a good person lasts a lot longer. So I'd like to be a good person that drove pretty well. How's that?