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Tony Kanaan Going On 100 This Weekend

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Thursday, April 16 2009

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Andretti Green Racing ace Tony Kanaan will make his 100th IndyCar Series start this weekend when the series makes its first visit to the Streets of Long Beach, Calif.

“It shows you that I’m getting old,” said Kanaan, 34. Still, the native Brazilian can look forward to at least five seasons remaining in the Andretti Green Racing-prepared No. 11 7-Eleven car thanks to an extension signed in August. Kanaan also will be making his 99th consecutive start _ the leader among active IndyCar Series drivers. He also is the series leader with 67 top-five finishes, further testament to his skills and staying power. 

A victory on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn circuit in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach _ or any of the remaining 16 events _ will give Kanaan at least one win in seven consecutive seasons. He would become the fourth driver to do so. Kanaan has enjoyed success on the temporary Long Beach course. He recorded his first podium finish in his second race in Indy Lights (second to David Empringham) in 1996 and won his first IndyCar pole in 1999 (finished fifth). 

“I can’t forget that one,” Kanann said of the CART pole. “We had a problem with the gearbox on our primary car in the morning, so we switched to the backup car and we were 0.5 seconds quicker. So, about 10 minutes before qualifying, we decided to withdraw the primary car and take a chance with the backup car. It was a gamble, but it paid off. I bet my engineers and the crew their wristwatches that I could do better than a 62.5 (seconds) and I did. They all lost their watches.”

Kanaan joined the IndyCar Series fulltime in 2003 with AGR, winning the pole for the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway and then winning from the pole three weeks later at Phoenix International Raceway. The next season, he became the first IndyCar driver to complete every lap (3,305) and set a then-series record with 889 laps-led on the way to the championship (three wins, 15 top-five finishes). 

Kanaan has been second or third in the championship standings three of the succeeding four years (sixth in ’06), and is coming off a fifth-place result at St. Petersburg, Fla.  

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Notes: Unser Jr., Rahal inducted into Long Beach Walk of Fame: Al Unser Jr. and Bobby Rahal were inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame Thursday during the fourth annual ceremony to recognize legends from the 35-year history of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. 

Bronze plaques were unveiled in the sidewalk alongside the course for the duo, who join Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney among others on the Walk of Fame.

Unser Jr., a two-time Indianapolis 500 champion, won six times on the streets of Long Beach. Rahal, the 1986 Indianapolis 500 champ, recorded four second-place finishes at Long Beach.

“It truly is an honor to be mentioned with the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk. To be in their company is very, very special,” said Unser Jr., who is serving as Grand Marshall of this weekend’s events.

Rahal returns to the Beach as cheerleader for son Graham, a second-year driver with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing.

“It’s a great pleasure and honor to be here, especially with my friend Al,” Rahal said. “I first came here in 1977 and sat on the top of a motorhome and watched Mario (Andretti) pass Jody Scheckter with a couple laps to go. I loved coming to this race and came back in 1978 to run the Atlantic race. Even though I never won here, it was fundamental to my progress and success as a driver. Maybe my one great regret in my career, if I have one, is that I never won here. But I told Graham he’ll have to do that for the Rahal family.”

Jim Michaelian, CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, presided over the ceremony.

Info Manager | , RacinToday.com Thursday, April 16 2009
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