NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne knows all about the heat of summer racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Wednesday, on a visit to Concord, N.H., the 2012 July race winner got hot with local firemen and received a warm reception from fans during his NASCAR "Victory Tour" stop in preparation for the Camping World RV Sales 301 on July 13.
Donned in boots and a full firefighter garb, Kahne topped off his fireproof ensemble with his very own firemen's helmet with a personally emblazoned nameplate on the front. The 11-year Sprint Cup veteran pilot went through a variety of different training routines, including a canine and jaws of life demonstration, a water hose competition, and a smoke-filled maze using a self-contained breathing apparatus before finishing his day answering questions from fans and signing autographs inside a hangar at the Concord Municipal Airport.
"I've never done anything like this before," said Kahne. "To put on that suit and walk in their shoes a little bit; I have a ton of respect for what they do on a regular basis."
Kahne is in his third season driving the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports. His win in July of 2012 at New Hampshire was his first at the 1.058-mile oval and the second under the Hendrick marquee. It was a big win for the native of Enumclaw, Wash., as he went on to finish a career- best fourth in the Sprint Cup standings.
"I'm looking forward to running the race at New Hampshire in July," said Kahne. "It's been a good race track for us, a place we've won before. It would mean a lot to us to that again."
After being gifted a cadet shirt and firefighter patch, Kahne was put through a canine demonstration. A droplet of gasoline was placed on Kahne's foot and he was situated into a lineup of other firemen (sans droplet). Molly, a yellow lab, smelled Kahne's foot then sat down, signaling that she detected an ignitable fluid.
The next training session gave Kahne an opportunity to use the Amakus Rescue Tool on a car before taking part in a water hose competition.
"That was pretty cool," said Kahne, who defeated the other fireman in knocking a cone off a prone vehicle first. "There is so much pressure coming out of that hose. It's a really difficult thing to do. I’m glad I had the help of some of the other firemen."
Kahne finished at the academy by entering a two-story mercantile Class "B" burn building. Wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus, Kahne maneuvered through the smoke-filled structure with a team before putting out a controlled fire on the second floor.
“This was a great first experience for Kasey to take part in,” said Bill Degnan, New Hampshire State Fire Marshal. “He was able do some of the training that our firemen go through and really get a hands-on opportunity to do everything from put out a fire to a search and rescue mission.”
“I wasn’t too nervous because they were in control, but if they weren’t I’d be really nervous because you can’t see anything in there,” said Kahne. “You have to trust your teammates in there. I have a lot of respect for these guys.”
After departing the fire academy, Kahne made his way inside an airplane hangar at the Concord Municipal Airport, where he joined legendary pit road reporter Dick Berggren on the stage in front of 50 Kasey Kahne fans, who earned the exclusive opportunity by taking part in a social media contest. Kahne answered questions about his 2012 victory at New Hampshire, what it’s like to navigate the one-mile oval and how his 2014 season has gone so far.
Kahne and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates will be in town again next week as part of a two-day test session on June 3 and 4 at the Magic Mile - a little more than one month before the Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on July 13.
For the second straight season, executive vice president and general manager Jerry Gappens has reached out to corporate sponsors to buy tickets to allow first responders and their families to come to the race. Gappens announced on Wednesday that Camping World RV Sales 301 will be dedicated to the men and women who lay it on the line every day, risking their life and safety.
“We are using the platform of the largest sporting event in New England to increase the awareness of the survivors and of those who protect and serve all of our communities,” said Gappens. “It is our honor to be a part of this.”
Last year, over $10,000 in first responder tickets were donated from corporate sponsors.