12 Questions with Kasey Kahne

The 12 Questions series of interviews continues this week with Kasey Kahne of Hendrick Motorsports. I spoke to Kahne at Texas Motor Speedway.

1. How much of your success is based on natural ability and how much has come from working at it?

When I was younger, it was both, because my dad always was on me to learn about the cars and work on the cars. But from the first time I got on a four-wheeler, a car or whatever, I felt like I knew what I was doing — and that was nice. So I’d say I had a little bit of ability driving, but I’ve always had to work at it. Today, I’d say I work way harder than (use) ability, it feel likes at times, so it’s just tough. Racing’s tough. It’s always changing, so you can’t just drive. You have to be aware of a lot of other things if you want to go fast.

2. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards have all retired in the last couple years. What’s your pitch for fans of theirs to become fans of yours?

Carl may come back; you’ll never know. But the other guys are doing other things that they’re enjoying, so that’s pretty cool. I feel like I probably have some of their fans — we probably have fans that are more of a Tony Stewart fan than my fan but they probably still like me a little bit because of our backgrounds. Same with Jeff Gordon, and then being Jeff’s teammate.

Those guys have always been my favorite drivers growing up because I enjoyed the way that they got to NASCAR and then what they’ve done along the way and in NASCAR and how dominant they were at times. So those have been some of favorites.

But I think just doing some of the same things and having some of the same passions for racing would maybe be able to get some of those fans on our side.

3. What is the hardest part of your job away from the racetrack?

The hardest part of my job away from the racetrack right now is probably the schedule. I’m trying to get everything in thoroughly and do a good job at the things I need to do racing-wise (and) sponsor-wise each week, making sure everybody’s happy.

And then there’s also doing my things that I enjoy that I feel helps me in the car — which is working out and putting in the time and effort of reading the notes and trying to be prepared, watching the videos and things to be prepared for when you get to the next track. And then working all that together with taking care of my son, Tanner.

So, doing all those things together, scheduling and giving each one of them plenty of time and then having the most time going to Tanner would probably be one of the tougher things we do.

It looks like Tanner is a really happy kid on social media and I enjoy following him. Is he loving life?

He’s loving life, and it’s crazy because he’s super happy. He probably gets a lot of that from his mom (Sam Sheets) because she’s really happy. He’s excited, he’s happy, he’s a mover right now and he has tons of energy.

We’ll hang out (and) he’ll stay up all night if I let him. But as soon as it’s time for bed and I tell him, he knows because it’s later than when he usually stays up. At night, I say, “Hey, are you ready for bed, bud?” It takes him a second, but then he heads to his bedroom, so that’s pretty good for a 17-month-old that has a ton of energy and is a really happy little boy.

4. A fan spots you eating dinner in a nice restaurant. Should they come over for an autograph or no?

Yeah. I’ve never really minded that. I’ve always (signed) autographs or taken a picture. Sometimes like right in the middle of eating your main meal is probably not the right time; for one, you’re hungry, so that’s why you’re there and you can’t wait to get down whatever’s in front of you.

And for two, in my opinion, eating food and shaking hands is kind of dirty in a way.

That is gross.

That’s kind of gross. That’s what gets me.

But prior to a meal and as soon as you’re done, whether you’re having a drink or sitting there relaxing or leaving a restaurant, those times are really good times and it’s nice to do a picture or sign something if you run into a fan.

5. What’s a story in NASCAR that doesn’t get enough coverage?

I screwed up and forgot to ask this question and didn’t realize it until after the interview. My bad!

6. Who is the last driver you texted?

It’s actually Dale Jr. Yesterday we were going back and forth. Jimmie was also on there and Chase, but Dale was doing most of the texting. We were just working on team stuff over the weekend.

7. Do you consider race car drivers to be entertainers?

I think our job can definitely be entertaining. I think there’s times when it can be, but other times maybe not so much. I wouldn’t say that an actual driver is a whole lot of an entertainer. But I think maybe the sport and what we have going on at certain tracks can definitely be entertaining for sure.

8. What is your middle finger policy on the racetrack?

I hate using it. I used it more when I was younger, and it’s truthfully pretty dumb when you use it. I feel bad the next week. I probably used it once this year and was mad because (of) whatever happened. Then you kind of feel like, “Man, why did you do that? What good did you get out of it? What point did you get across?” It was nothing. You probably just made the other guy mad and you (feel) the same. I got flipped off plenty of times, but I try not to do it too much anymore. I’ve kind of grown out of that.

9. Some drivers keep a payback list in their minds. Do you also have a list for drivers who have done you a favor on the track?

Absolutely. You know that just kind of builds up. A lot of it, the list kind of goes away and you forget about it and as soon as that person either does you wrong or does you good again, it comes right back and you instantly remember. As quick as it’s happening, you remember the past — good or bad.

You don’t think about the list daily, but if you have another deal with that guy, it comes back and you remember every single time you had a problem and why and what and so on. That list is never-ending on both ends.

10. Who is the most famous person you’ve had dinner with?

Probably Blake Shelton. And that was with Clint (Bowyer). We were at the Super Bowl and we had Blake Shelton. Clint and Blake are good friends, I think. So having dinner with those guys, with Blake, that was a blast. Good times.

That had to be a pretty fun dinner.

It was a very fun dinner, very entertaining at that point.

11. What’s something about yourself you’d like to improve?

I always just wish I was a little bit happier. I enjoy racing and I’m really happy with Tanner, but there’s a lot times throughout the week where I’m just kind of getting through the day, you know? It’d be nice to just walk around a little happier daily.

12. Speaking of getting through the day, you post workout videos, and that was something Clint Bowyer was interested in asking about. So, he wants to know: Why do you post workout videos on social media?

I don’t know why he cares so much about this. He’s had this talk with me already. He’s texted me. (Laughs) I think he thinks I’m trying to be like Danica or something, is what he was saying.

But I just think it’s just working hard and enjoying. I enjoy working out. I really do. I love it. And when you’re sweating and working hard, you want to show some of your fans that you’re getting after it. You’re doing things to try and improve yourself and be better. I think Clint knows that.

That’s probably what it is, because he doesn’t work out, so he’s probably like, “Man, you’re making me look bad. Stop posting these workout videos!”

That is definitely what it is. But, truthfully, every time I see Clint go run, and he’ll do it like twice a year, he’ll just take off out of the bus garage and then he comes back 20 minutes later and he did two and a half or three miles. And he doesn’t honestly look bad for not running that often, so he can probably do whatever he wanted and get in good shape in a hurry, I’d imagine. But he’s in good race shape, so that’s really all that matters.

The next interview I’m doing is with Daniel Suarez. Do you have a question for him?

I like Daniel a lot. We all know it’s a big step, what he’s doing this year. He’s working hard to do it right and do a good job with it, so that’s really cool.

I’m guessing he lives in North Carolina, close to Gibbs maybe? I really don’t know, but how does he enjoy living wherever he lives? Does he enjoy it as much as where he grew up (in Mexico)? I’m from Enumclaw (Wash.) and I live in North Carolina now and I loved where I grew up, and I really enjoy where I live now. I just want to get his opinion because his (situation) is from a lot further away than Enumclaw.

This 12 Questions interview is sponsored by Dover International Speedway. If you’re planning to attend the Dover race in June, please consider using my ticket link. Thanks!

Survivor Game Changers Power Rankings: Week 6

The Queen doesn’t stay Queen, as it turns out. Sandra, who was ranked at the bottom of the power rankings for most of the season, finally got the boot last week as players wised up to her threat level.

But man, how impressive was Sandra? She played an incredible game right up until the end and seemed to nearly pull off another escape. No wonder she won twice.

Now that she’s gone, though, we have a new name at the bottom. Here’s how I rank the remaining castaways based on best chance to win it all:

1. Zeke (Last week: 2). He essentially made the biggest move of the season, spearheading Sandra’s ouster. That gives him an honorary No. 1 spot this week, but I’m slightly concerned about his future based on the weakness of his new tribe.

2. Troyzan (Last week: 1). Troyzan ended up in a good spot with the tribe swap and still has an idol to play with. He’s in great shape for the merge.

3. Cirie (Last week: 5). Damn! Did you see how fast she, Aubry and Sierra did that puzzle? Cirie is one smart cookie, and she could slip into the Sandra slot as the top social player now, too.

4. Hali (Last week: 6). She’s played a clever game to this point, but seemed to have clashed with Brad at tribal a couple episodes ago. Can they work together? If so, and she makes the merge, I think she’s got a chance.

5. Sierra (Last week: 9). She’s got a great tribe and a solid alliance with Brad and Troyzan. Once she makes the merge, she could have a real shot because she won’t be an obvious threat.

6. Aubry (Last week: 11). The merge can’t get here soon enough for Aubry, because that’s when she can work her magic. In the meantime, she could be viewed as a threat.

7. Brad (last week: 10). He remains a huge target and could go home any week. But for now, his strong new tribe might win enough challenges to keep him safe.

8. Michaela (Last week: 12). If her new tribe loses, she might be a target. To avoid this, she MUST stay below the radar for a couple weeks and not get into any confrontations.

9. Sarah (Last week: 4). Her new tribe’s makeup isn’t very promising. At least if she makes the merge, she seems to have a potential alliance with Troyzan that could help her.

10. Andrea (Last week: 7). As is the case with Zeke and Sarah, she’s now on a weak tribe that could lose immunity for a couple straight weeks. That’s not good for merge chances.

11. Ozzy (Last week: 8). Ozzy’s name got mentioned at tribal council, and though he didn’t get any votes, he’s clearly known as a threat. That doesn’t bode well for the long-term, especially because he’ll be a quick target when they become one tribe.

12. Varner (Last week: 3). He plummets down the rankings this week because he’s clearly in the minority now after the tribe swap — and lost Sandra as a shield. If his group goes to tribal council again, the votes are likely coming for either Varner or Tai.

13. Debbie (Last week: 14). As much as a strategy session with Cochran might have helped other players, I doubt it will do much for Debbie. She might float to the merge because she’s not a target (unless they can’t stand her), but there’s zero chance she wins it all.

14. Tai (Last week: 13). He’s found three idols and still has two of them, but he keeps shooting himself in the foot. It was a sloppy tribal council performance, and it nearly cost him (or appeared that way). No matter how many idols he has, he won’t win if he keeps this up.

News Analysis: Fernando Alonso to run Indy 500, skip Monaco

What happened: Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso, sixth on the all-time F1 wins list with 32 Grand Prix victories, will skip Monaco to race in the Indianapolis 500 in May. He’ll drive a Honda-powered McLaren car run by Andretti Autosport.

What it means: A huge boost internationally for the Indy 500. An active F1 driver missing the biggest F1 race — which Alonso has won twice — to come drive at Indianapolis? That’s wild! It’s going to get a lot of attention around the world and will be quite a big story in motorsports from now through the race. Depending on how Alonso’s experience goes, it could pave the way for more famous drivers to try to the Indy 500 and raise the prestige level even further.

News value (scale of 1-10): Depends on where you’re reading this. It’s probably an 8 for international readers and a 6 if you live in the United States and only follow NASCAR. Alonso said in his view, the Indy 500 is “one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivaled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix” and said he’d like to win the “Triple Crown” one day (which has only been achieved by Graham Hill, who raced in the 1960s). Of course, that perspective is different in the U.S., where even some race fans don’t know who Alonso is and may feel the Daytona 500 is just as big as the Indy 500. 

Questions: Can Alonso, who has never raced on a big oval (or any oval, perhaps), get up to speed quickly enough to be competitive? How much will this raise the international profile of the Indy 500, which was already coming off a ton of publicity with the 100th running? Is there anything NASCAR can do to counter this move for the Coca-Cola 600, which likely loses some of the media spotlight (Gordon? Stewart)?

Fernando Alonso speaks to reporters at a Shell-sponsored event in Austin before the 2014 race there. (Photo: Jeff Gluck)

Column: New All-Star Race format underwhelms

The reveal of this year’s All-Star Race format was more anticipated than usual for a few reasons.

First, Monster Energy is sponsoring the race. Getting Monster to put its stamp on the format had a lot of promise to be fresh and different.

Next, NASCAR and the tracks are enjoying an era of unprecedented collaboration with the drivers, with the exchange of ideas constantly going back and forth. Combine that with things like stage racing being introduced this year, and there seems to be an appetite for big changes in the sport.

So when the All-Star format was unveiled Tuesday afternoon, my leg was bouncing up and down with nervous energy.

They could do ANYTHING to the format! It’s a blank slate! What will be the big twist?

The answer: Tires.

Tires? Yes, tires.

Teams will get one set of tires that has a softer compound, which will theoretically enable them to go faster. If a team puts on that set before the final stage, the car has to drop to the back.

The tire twist is described as “a game-changer” in the NASCAR press release.

Tires…

……..

Look, I don’t hate this format. It’s just…underwhelming in a That’s it? sort of way.

A decade ago, the All-Star Race was special because it was the only time NASCAR had double-file restarts. Now every race has those. Then the All-Star race was unique because it had stages. Now every race has those, too.

So the fact there are going to be three 20-lap stages before the final 10-lap shootout? Eh.

I like that some drivers will be eliminated (only 10 cars make the 10-lap shootout), but it’s complicated to keep track of who they are. Three stage winners go to the final stage, plus seven drivers who had the best average finish in the three stages, which — HEY! Pay attention! You started to drift. Anyway, then the cars will be lined up in order of their average finish for the final pit stop, and the order for the final stage will be determined — HEY! Are you getting this??

OK, you know what? You’ll just figure it out when you’re watching.

The point is, with all the creative people and ideas bouncing around NASCAR these days, backed by a push from a new and innovative sponsor, the format could have been way outside the box and cutting edge.

Instead, they decided to have a race that is, in part, “an ode to the 1992 edition of the same distance.”

Tires, I’m afraid, aren’t going to sell any extra tickets.

Fan Profile: Erin Martin

These 12 Questions-style fan profiles are one of the rewards offered as a tier on my Patreon page. You can catch up on the other profiles so far this season here.

Name: Erin Martin
Location: Winnetka, Calif.
Twitter name: @Jrsgr88stfan
Age: 48

1. How long have you been a NASCAR fan?

Since 1985.

2. How many races have you attended?

I’ve attended 20 races at Fontana — including this year — and one at Dover.

3. Who is your No. 1 favorite driver?

Dale Jr.

4. What made you a fan of his?

This might be blasphemy, but I wasn’t a Dale Sr. fan; I was a Mark Martin fan. When Dale Jr. started driving, there was just something about him I liked. Maybe it was the bleached blonde hair — I don’t know. I loved how Dale Sr. interacted with Dale Jr.; it was endearing. After Dale Sr. died, that was it, and I became even more dedicated to what is now Junior Nation.

5. Who is your most disliked driver?

Kyle Busch.

6. Why don’t you like him?

In 2008, Dale Jr. was leading the race at Richmond, and Kyle just wrecked him. I will never get past that moment. I won’t buy M&Ms, Interstate batteries, Doublemint gum or Pedigree dog food.

7. What is your favorite track?

Bristol.

8. What is one thing you would change if you were in charge of NASCAR?

I would make the races shorter. People consume sports differently now. It takes a lot to sit in front of the TV for three-plus hours to watch a race. If I wasn’t so invested in Dale Jr., I’m not sure I would sit there for three hours each week.

9. What is one thing you would keep the same if you were in charge of NASCAR?

Please keep the road course races. The last couple of years, those have been the most exciting races. And for me to say that is HUGE, because I have always disliked the road courses. But man, they have been good the last few years.

10. How often do you yell at the TV during a race?

If Junior is leading, I yell a whole lot and I pace back and forth. I feel like I drive every lap with him.

11. Do you have any advice for other fans?

My advice would be look beyond the driver. I have become a fan of the 88 team as well. There are a whole lot of people who work their guts out to get that car on the track each week. When you see them, acknowledge them, thank them and let them know you see them.

12. What else do you want the NASCAR world to know about you?

I’m not only Dale Jr.’s greatest fan, I’m Jeff Gluck’s greatest fan! (She made me keep this in there.)

Journalism debate: United passenger’s past exposed

United Airlines passenger David Dao was forcibly removed from his flight — a flight he had booked and paid for — and became the subject of viral videos shortly thereafter.

But does that make him a public figure? That’s an important question to consider while judging whether journalists should dig into Dao’s life and publicize his past.

Two stories emerged Tuesday morning on Dao’s past.  A story by the Louisville Courier-Journal reported Dao, a doctor, has a “troubled history” with his medical practice. On TMZ, a much more salacious headline: “UNITED AIRLINES DOCTOR CONVICTED OF EXCHANGING DRUGS FOR SEX.”

Both reports say roughly the same thing, although the TMZ language is more blunt: Dao was arrested 14 years ago after writing fraudulent prescriptions for pain medication, and he “indicated he accepted sexual favors from an associate in exchange for reducing a debt that associate owed him.”

Dao was convicted of multiple felonies, was placed on five years of probation and lost his medical license for 10 years, the reports said.

Yes, Dao committed a crime — and that comes with consequences. But the public reporting on it is uncomfortable, particularly in the Courier-Journal’s case — because TMZ and newspapers should have different standards for what is newsworthy.

TMZ’s brand is to expose anything and everything if it has to do with the public record; the outlet is splashy and controversial and digs up the dirt. That’s how it’s been for years.

But newspapers have always had a mission to serve the public interest first, and, in theory, should carefully examine whether such stories are justified.

Remember, Dao didn’t ask to be in this spotlight — he just wanted to fly home. The reason for all the attention is because of how airlines treat passengers — not Dao specifically. So at a newspaper, editors should ask themselves: “Does this information help move the story forward? Does this serve our readers?”

I would argue publicizing Dao’s past does not do either of those things. Writing fraudulent prescriptions aren’t relevant to being physically dragged off an overbooked flight, and Dao isn’t the bad guy who deserves additional scrutiny — he’s the victim here.

Even if you think he should have obeyed authorities, United should have handled the situation better (how about increasing the amount of the voucher offers until some other passenger got off the plane? That would have been much cheaper for United than the bad publicity it’s getting now).

I’m not going to get outraged about TMZ’s reporting, because that’s been the TMZ style for years. But when newspapers follow that path, they risk damaging credibility with their readers while gaining a few thousand clicks — the kind of short-term thinking United now knows all too well.