Five questions with.... Kasey Kahne
16 July 2009
Most drivers spend a portion of race day visiting with sponsors before they are called to “Start your engines”.
But Kasey Kahne is known around NASCAR circles as perhaps the busiest of them all, visiting anywhere from five to eight sponsors each race day and close to 200 for the year.
Some of those visits are simple meet-and-greets, which include a few handshakes, autographs and photos with members of the sponsor party outside his hauler or motorcoach. Others are more formal in front of hundreds of fans, where he'll typically take a microphone and talk about the race and field questions from the crowd.
Kahne, who won the June 21 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, recently sat down with SportsBusiness Journal staff writer Michael Smith in the new Mooresville, N.C., home of Kasey Kahne Racing, where he owns two dirt-track teams.
What influences shaped the way you approach those sponsor relationships?
The sponsors are the ones that are spending the money and they know what they need to help their business, so I tell Budweiser if you see something I'm not doing right, talk to me. Our relationship with Budweiser, with Allstate, has grown and they've helped me get to where I'm at with the fans and with racing.
The relationship with Budweiser has been similar to any other sponsor, but there's just a lot more reward that comes from working with Bud. You get so many bonuses because of the brand, as far as football, basketball, baseball, concerts. You can do anything you want, if you want.
A lot of people maybe thought of Kasey Kahne as a certain way, and the great thing is that I haven't had to change who I am at all to be the Bud driver. I'm still that same person. I didn't have to change my clothes or my hair or start drinking beer. I was already that guy, even though I might not have looked that way to certain fans.
You're sitting in this sparkling new race shop, where you run two World of Outlaw teams and a USAC team. What's the vision for this place?
My vision has always been to stay involved with short-track racing, stay involved with the type of racing I grew up in. It had to become a business to make it all work, to get the right sponsors and the right people.
As far as a business goes, it hasn't been a good business or a profitable business because there's not a lot of money to be won each night. You're pulling (money) out of your own pocket or looking for partners to help support you. But we've sold some really nice deals on these cars because of where I'm at on the Cup side.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is a good friend of yours, but do you think he gets a free pass because of his popularity?
It seems that Kyle (Busch) goes after him for no reason. Dale Jr. is having a tough time, and he's trying to change it. Then Kyle is running his mouth about it. There's no reason he should have even said anything about it. I think the feuds should be on the track: “I kicked your ass today, you're going to kick mine next week.”
Are drivers doing enough to promote the sport? Should they be more outspoken?
It fits some drivers, and doesn't fit others. If I threw my helmet and had a fit, I'd look like a baby. But Kyle does it and it's just Kyle. Everybody knows how he is and how he acts. To me, you have to be yourself. If that's throwing your helmet and yelling at the TV cameras, then do it. But if it's to keep it to yourself, then that's you. Tony Stewart is one guy who has done an awesome job of being himself, and that's why he's got such a great following.
You're a free agent next year? Is your future at Richard Petty Motorsports?
That's a good question. I want to be somewhere we're putting 100 per cent into our cars and engines for 38 straight races. When we get that, we'll be a strong contender. That's all I care about, being competitive every week and not just half the season.
The other 25 or 30 top teams all have new equipment at the start of the year, and we basically blew four months (before a new engine was implemented), and we do it every year. Hendrick doesn't do that, Roush doesn't do that, Gibbs doesn't do that. If we put together a complete season, we'd be an elite team, but the way we do it, we're on the verge of not being an elite team.
by Michael Smith