After joining Red Bull five weeks ago to get a head start on 2011, Kasey Kahne showed the move is paying off by putting his No. 83 Toyota on pole for Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
It also demonstrated that the team is gelling around him since Kahne’s success was a direct result of a solid effort that saw his crew lean on teammate Scott Speed for help.
"Hopefully, we can put together a great run on Sunday and carry that through the off-season too." –Kahne
“We used a little bit of the No. 82's stuff today, which is the first time that either team has really mixed since I've been there,” said Kahne.
“Hopefully, we can put together a great run on Sunday and carry that through the off-season too. I think we'll be in good shape next year. I look forward to the off-season and being able to work with the guys and being ready to go when Daytona comes.”
Kahne split with his former team and joined Red Bull early after signing a one-year deal with the outfit that was announced in August.
Getting some help from Speed was an inspired idea since the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota driver started on the outside of the front row a year ago in Miami. The cooperation delivered Kahne the team’s first pole since Brian Vickers put the No. 83 at the front of last year’s Carfax 400 at the Michigan International Speedway last August, where he also scored Red Bull’s first-ever win in the Sprint Cup competition.
Pulling off a win in Miami will take some work, especially since the finale is not a night race this year and that throws a bit of a wrench in the works.
“The track will change a little bit Sunday, but we race during the day this year so it's going to be different than what we've had in the past,” Kahne said. “Just making sure you have grip, whether it's front grip or rear grip, you need it here to go fast. You can definitely search at this track and find different spots on the track to go fast. It's a neat track so it's always nice to race at Homestead.”
While he feels the team has struggled a bit since he arrived in Martinsville a month ago, Kahne thinks things are beginning to fall into place for 2011, where he plans to win races and make the Chase for the Cup.
“We've run pretty decent lap times at times and the finishes haven't quite been as good as we would've liked, but we've finished the races and led a few laps,” he said “I see what Red Bull's all about, I see how they do it and [I've been] learning about their parts and pieces and race cars. They have really good stuff, and they have good people.”
No matter what happens Sunday, the 30-year-old from Enumclaw, Washington will step from the car and into a surgeon’s care on Tuesday following the season finale to alleviate pain he’s had in his knees since birth. The surgery should take about an hour to complete and will help ease the irritation he experiences when he exercises or drives the car. He made the decision to get the operation done because the condition has worsened over the years.
“It's just getting to where it's no fun," he says. "When I get out of the car, a lot of times I limp around. When I walk around a lot — if I go to Las Vegas and walk for a day, I can't walk the next day.”
“Get them done, go home, lay on the couch most of the day. By Thursday, I think I will be pretty good so I will be able to eat full on at Thanksgiving. I'm looking forward to it. I think it will take maybe six weeks and then they will be 100 percent or close to it.”
With Kahne expected to be back on his feet and relatively pain free by the New Year, he’s certain that he’ll be raring to go by the time the Daytona 500 rolls around in February.
But for now, Kahne will concentrate on the task and hand and worry about his recovery and 2011 later.
“I look forward to Sunday's race,” he said. “It's gonna be exciting being up front now, being in the mix with [championship contenders] Denny [Hamlin], [Kevin] Harvick and Jimmie [Johnson] — they're all gonna be fast throughout the race.”
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