CONCORD, N.H. – NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne, accustomed to wearing a fire retardant racing suit, donned a heavy firefighters’ suit and took part in a crash course on fire fighting and rescue techniques as part of his appearance Wednesday at New Hampshire’s Fire Academy, where Granite State first responders are trained.
Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, said his track’s NASCAR Sprint Cup event July 13, the Camping World RV Sales 301, would be dedicated to first responders in the wake of the tragedies that befell Boston Fire Department’s Engine 33 and Ladder 15 and the Brentwood (N.H.) Police Department.
Kahne, who was presented with a white fire helmet with his No. 5 embroidered in red leather, was asked how the fire suit he wore Wednesday compared to his racing suit.
“It feels nice today. It’s only 50 degrees out, so it feels good,” said Kahne, who wore the fire suit to participate in a Jaws of Life vehicle extraction, a water hose competition with trainees, and extinguish a controlled fire in a two-story burn building.
“On a 90-degree day, this would not be a very comfortable suit. But today it actually feels pretty good. Our race suits breathe really well, so when it’s hot out, it breathes pretty good. It’s just about like being in a long-sleeved t-shirt. Our suits are pretty nice these days.
“This thing, I would say, in 90-degree weather would be pretty hot.”
Several of Kahne’s female fans who were on hand arrived at the same conclusion after seeing their favorite driver outfitted in firefighting garb.
Asked if he was beginning to feel some heat to qualify for the Chase after Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson won the last two Sprint Cup races at Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, respectively, Kahne said, “We’re not yet halfway through the regular season, so we’ve got some time left.”
Kahne, who ranks 17th in the points, credited a test session at Kansas with helping his team turn the corner on some speed issues it encountered early in the season.
“Earlier in the year we were pretty slow, but the last month we’ve been pretty fast and we’ve been in the hunt,” he said. “We’re looking forward to Dover this week, Pocono, Michigan, New Hampshire, Sonoma, all the tracks coming up. We feel like we can run really well at them and get to be where we need to be.”
Follow Michael Vega on Twitter at @MBVEGA.