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From the Notebook: Kahne plans on getting dirty during off week

April 04, 2012, Dave Rodman,

Hendrick driver to run sprint dar; Vickers continues to prove himself

Kasey Kahne could completely be forgiven if he was ready to climb under a rock and take a long nap for the entire upcoming off weekend for the Sprint Cup Series. Kahne's first six Cup races have been the epitome of frustration.

But that's not Kahne's style.

"It's exciting for myself. I enjoy racing those cars 10 times a year, at least. This will be my first two, this year."


Hendrick Motorsports' newest driver also owns a multi-team, open-wheel racing operation -- Kasey Kahne Racing. Kahne can hardly contain his excitement over racing in his first sprint-car event of the season.

And, since he's not one to do things halfway, Kahne and one of his drivers will both race Friday and Saturday nights at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park. He and Brad Sweet, who's also splitting the full 2012 Nationwide Series schedule with Kahne in the No. 38 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet, will race in the 0.33-mile dirt track's annual Spring Nationals.

"It's exciting for myself," Kahne said. "I enjoy racing those cars 10 times a year, at least. This will be my first two, this year. I wanted to race [at Volusia Speedway Park] in Florida during February, but I had just had my knee surgery so I didn't do it.

"I feel like Attica will be a great track [to make his 2012 debut]. I enjoy racing there; it's a cool place with a lot of good fans up there. It's two nights in a row, it's supposed to be sunny and we built a brand new car for up there. So I think we'll have a good piece and I'm looking forward to having some good racing."

Kahne, who revealed via his Twitter account he's planning to attend the annual Knoxville (Iowa) Nationals in August, is so enamored of open-wheel racing he'll also serve as a race promoter for four World of Outlaws races this season.

The Kasey Kahne Challenge opens April 20 at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia and will include events in Maryland, Indiana and Nebraska. Kahne could make all four, as NASCAR is in Kansas for the opening Challenge weekend, the second is on the Sunday of Sprint All-Star weekend and the final two events are Tuesday night shows.

Kahne said he recently spent a couple hours at his 26,000-square-foot KKR shop in Mooresville, N.C., working on his new car's driver's compartment.

"The car's almost done," Kahne said. "We were waiting on an engine, which we were going to borrow from Joey Saldana's [KKR] team so we should be in good shape. The field at Attica will be really tough -- it always is. It'll be interesting to see how well all three of our cars can do."

Sweet has been around Kahne at every Nationwide race this season, and will run a little more than half the Nationwide races and "25 or 30 sprint-car races." Sweet laughed when he anticipated this weekend at Attica.

"Maybe the crowds around the cars [are] the only thing that's different," Sweet said of how it is to race against the boss in team sprint cars. "[Kahne] is just one of the guys. That's why he goes sprint-car racing because he just wants that feel -- that he's just one of the guys at the dirt track, racing."

Sweet also commented that he thought people weren't fully aware of Kahne's passion for the circuit.

"I enjoy racing with those guys, whether it's Brad, Joey or Cody [Darrah], and everybody else that races sprint cars," Kahne said. "I bet Tony [Stewart, fellow open-wheel team owner] will be up there, so it'll be a fun weekend.

"The big thing for me is figuring it out quick and trying to qualify well, because you only get three or four laps of practice, then you qualify and run heat races and everything means something. You can't get behind and it's easy to get behind if you haven't had a lot of seat time and those other guys have."

Vickers continues never-ending validation

Brian Vickers started the 2012 season on the sidelines, so, when he led a bunch of laps and finished fifth in his season-opening race at Bristol, it was easy for a lot of people to assume the veteran would consider that validation.

That opening effort led team owner Michael Waltrip to add this season's two Sprint Cup road-course races to Vickers' six-race schedule. Last weekend, Vickers said it wasn't that simple.

"I think as an athlete, as a competitor, and really in the sport that we live in, you need validation every week," Vickers said. "I think the industry has proven that ... you can fade away quickly. So from that standpoint, I've definitely made mistakes over the last 10 years in my NASCAR career, but I've had some really good moments that I'm very proud of, and Bristol was one of them.

"Obviously, it meant a lot to have that validation for me, personally, to get back in the car and do well."

Vickers said driving the Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 55 Toyota was the culmination of a process that began in 2007 when the team was formed -- at the same time Vickers was part of Red Bull Racing's startup team.

"I can assure you that Michael [Waltrip] knows it didn't happen at Bristol -- it happened five years prior to that. I know a piece of that just because I was involved with a team that was started from scratch at the same time he was starting his team from scratch. It's a long road. It's not easy. The validation has to come every week."

Related: Vickers returns to Martinsville with good things ahead

Stenhouse wants to keep rolling

Defending Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has started the 2012 season with the best finishing average of his NASCAR career. During the first five races, Stenhouse has a 6.2 average finish and he's second, 18 points behind leader Elliott Sadler. Stenhouse is one who isn't keen for this stretch of downtime, which will cover two weekends before the series races again April 13 at Texas Motor Speedway.

"I wish we didn't have an off weekend coming up," Stenhouse said. "We have a lot of momentum right now and I wish we were racing [this] weekend. I'm extremely happy with our start in the 2012 season and we already have one win under our belt. We feel like we could have won all five races so far this year. We've brought stout race cars each weekend, which shows the dedication of everyone at Roush Fenway Racing."

Related: Lights, camera, action for Stenhouse Jr.

Send a soldier to The Rock

Rockingham Speedway is offering a special program, "Send a Soldier to The Rock," in partnership with nearby Fort Bragg. It allows fans to purchase tickets for servicemen and women for the upcoming Good Sam Roadside Assistance 200 Camping World Truck Series race on April 15. The event is the first NASCAR-sanctioned race at the South-Carolina track since 2004.

"Fans have begun adding an additional ticket to their order for the soldiers," Rockingham Speedway president Andy Hillenburg said. "Some have even purchased blocks of three, four seats [for soldiers]. This program started at the grassroots level and we couldn't be happier to give it our seal of approval.

"Nothing is too good for our military men and women, and we look forward to hosting them April 13-15."

Related: Trucks offer sneak peek to Rockingham return