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Kahne tests at 'Dega for '13, still focused on '12

October 03, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

Kasey Kahne 'drew the shortest straw' in the Hendrick garage, and made the mid-week trip to 'Dega for 2013 car testing. (Getty)

Hendrick driver testing 2013 Cup car for NASCAR before race weekend

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- As the newest driver in the stable at Hendrick Motorsports, Kasey Kahne was asked if he "drew the shortest straw" to have to head to Talladega Superspeedway on Wednesday for a day of testing that has nothing to do with this 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

"I didn't even get a straw," said Kahne, smiling.

"I don't think [testing at Talladega is] going to be any kind of advantage because I think they're going to keep changing things until we get to Daytona [for 2013 Speedweeks]."

--KASEY KAHNE

Kahne was scheduled to be the Hendrick headliner at Wednesday's test for the new 2013 Sprint Cup cars, where a limited number of teams fielding Chevrolets, Fords and Toyotas for next season were to take to the track. Even though he'll race again at the 2.66-mile track this Sunday, it will be in a totally different car.

Kahne said he not only saw no competitive advantage to be gained by him for Sunday's race, but also saw none to be gained for when he heads into next season in the version of the new car that will be tested Wednesday.

"I don't think it's going to be any kind of advantage because I think they're going to keep changing things until we get to Daytona [for 2013 Speedweeks]," Kahne said of NASCAR. "So, to me, it's just kind of to see where it's at -- to get some feedback and some opinions. And NASCAR will make decisions and keep making changes until they have what they want for Daytona next year. But [Wednesday's] car will definitely not be the car that we will race next year."

Speaking Tuesday after an appearance at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Kahne wanted to talk mostly about how his first season has gone at Hendrick -- and where he expects it to go from here over the season's final seven races.

Kahne finished a disappointing 15th last Sunday at Dover, where a crew member left a lug nut off the right-front tire and Kahne had to make a return trip to the pits with 50 laps to go, costing him a possible top-five finish. Worse yet, it dropped him from 15 points off the Chase lead to 32 behind, sixth in the points, by day's end.

Now he heads to dangerous, racy Talladega trying to make up that lost ground. But not during Wednesday's test. The real deal will come in Sunday's race as he works toward continuing to put a positive cap on his first season as a Hendrick driver.

"It took us a little while to get it figured out," said Kahne, who won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May and later added a win in New Hampshire. "But we've won a couple of races and made the Chase -- and we've still got time left this year to better where we're at. So I like where we're at. I wish a couple of things had been different, but it's just part of racing and you can't have it back.

"I think if we finish way back in the Chase in points, then I'm not going to be happy about that. There are some tracks left where we can definitely win, or at least come very close and be in that mix throughout the end. So until we're done at Homestead, I don't feel like we've put a good enough season together yet. I think there is still a lot that we can do. I really want to finish top five in points and get some of those points back that we lost at Dover."

Kahne said joining the high-powered Hendrick team that also employs superstar drivers Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been as enjoyable an experience as he envisioned beforehand -- and then some.

"There is a lot you don't know. There was a lot that I thought I knew, and everybody kind of has their opinions on different things, but there's a lot you don't know until you're actually part of it. The way Mr. H [owner Rick Hendrick] treats people; the way everybody just loves being there and puts such an effort into always getting better, making the cars better and all that. The way the drivers and the crew chiefs all communicate as a four-car team. A lot of that stuff you just can't know until you're a part of it, and it's been awesome the way that they play that out."

He admitted he has been bowled over by the resources at the Hendrick teams' daily disposal.

"It amazes you, but the neat part about being there is that it's up to you to make the most of what's given to you. And I love having that opportunity," Kahne said.

As for Wednesday's test, Kahne admitted he wasn't sure what to expect out of the car he was slated to drive.

"I haven't even seen it. I hope my seat is in it," he said, smiling again.