Wednesday morning NASCAR fans from as far as 300 miles away flocked to the grand opening of Ollie’s Bargain outlet in Statesboro to meet NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne.
Though you’d never guess it from his innocent, boyish face Kahne is a 13-year veteran of NASCAR’s top cup circuit. He’s raced so long he’s competed for the Nextel, Sprint and Monster Energy Cup championships and done so with five different teams. In that time he’s built up quite a fanbase, so much so that he could get people staying at Ollie’s overnight just for one autograph.
Kahne’s enjoyed moderate success on NASCAR’s biggest stage. He’s won 18 races, most recently the Brickyard 400 on July 23 at the storied Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He’s got another 173 top ten finishes and was the 2004 rookie of the year. At 37 years old he’s currently in 12th place in the Cup standings, putting him in position to make the Chase playoffs come September.
The Statesboro Herald was able to catch up with Kahne in the middle of what was a hectic autograph session to find out what his favorite win was and how he keeps he boyish looks in such a high-stress profession:
Q: What is your least favorite stereotypical question reporters ask you in these kinds of events?
A: I think it kind of changes as you go. It changes as to whether or not you’re having success at the time, all the questions you get asked are changing. It just goes on and on until something changes.
Q: So the “why are you struggling” question falls into that category?
A:Like I said, those questions just go on and on and on until something you do changes. It starts to become normal after a while.
Q: Racers nowadays are almost salesmen. You’re constantly promoting your brand and are always on the move. Did anyone ever prepare you for these realities when you came up from open wheeled racing in 2003?
A:It’s something you learn as you go and you get better at it once you start to get more comfortable with it. I tried to somewhat be prepared when I came up but until you start going through it all you never quite know exactly how it was going to go.
Q: I know not all you racers aren’t uber extroverts and this ‘shaking hands and kissing babies’ thing doesn’t come easy to all of you. Does it come easy to you?
A: I think I’ve gotten a lot better at it over the years. The more I do it the more comfortable I’ve become around other people and it’s allowed me to enjoy going around and meeting all these people.
Q: So do these promotional tours ever get exhausting to you?
A: No, it’s become part of the job. You get used to it and enjoy it more as the years go on.
Q: Let’s transition over to the actual racing side of things. In your 13 years on the Cup circuit what is your favorite thing about racing?
A: I think there’s a lot that goes into it. Obviously I’ve got a huge passion for driving the cars and trying to understand them mechanically. The adrenaline and the speed of side-by-side racing gets me going, but what I really like are the cars themselves.
But I think just learning about them and learning why this feels a certain way or why when we turn I start to feel a certain way. I’ve always wanted to gain a better understanding of the cars I race. So I guess I like a lot of things that go into racing that isn’t involved with the driving side of things.
Q: Do you have the favorite win of the 18 in your career?
A: That’s a really tough question. I think Indianapolis has to be my biggest win… I mean that’s the greatest track of them all. That place is unbelievable and I’ve always dreamed of racing there let alone winning. So that one has to be up top.
I won a couple of Coca-Cola 600’s up in Charlotte, especially the first one with Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. My first win with Red Bull at Phoenix in 2011 was pretty special. There’s been a bunch of great ones, like I couldn’t forget my first win ever in 2005 at Richmond. That was a really cool experience.
Q: You’re a dad now and a more responsible man, let’s take you back to 2006 when you’re much younger. You’ve won four races in the first 15 weeks of the season… what do the celebrations look like back then for a 26 year old Kasey Kahne?
A: Those were a really good time, we had some really great parties after wins. We had too much fun with my friends and family around. Those nights were entertaining for sure.
Q: One last question that’s really been pressing me. You are notoriously baby-faced, yet you’re 37 years old. What are you doing to yourself to stay looking this clean?
A:I guess I drink a lot of water and try to work out as much as I can. I’ve forced to stay in shape since I’m always racing so I guess that’s kind of been my secret.