Kanaan Becomes Free Agent

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 4 2010

Tony Kanaan is losing his long-time sponsor next year and has become a free agent. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Former IZOD IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan has been informed by Andretti Autosport that he is a free agent heading into the 2011 season.

Kanaan’s No. 11 car is losing primary sponsorship from 7-Eleven, Inc. The Dallas-based convenience store chain notified Andretti Autosport over the weekend that it would not continue its financial backing of the Brazilian’s Dallara/Honda in 2011.

“We are confirming today that 7-Eleven will not be returning as the primary sponsor of the 11 car next season,” John Lopes, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Andretti Autosport, said in a statement from Indianapolis. “We are thankful for their many years of support and are proud of all we accomplished together.

“7-Eleven will continue to be an associate sponsor of our team through an ongoing contract in support of Danica Patrick’s (No. 7) GoDaddy.com car.”

Lopes added that Andretti Autosport is working to secure primary sponsorship for the No. 11

Tony Kanaan (RacinToday photo by Mark Henderson of Really, Really Big Productions)

car, which Kanaan has driven since 2003 – his first full IndyCar season for the team then known as Andretti Green Racing.

Kanaan, who re-signed with the team in 2008, has three years remaining on a contract that reportedly pays him $3 million per year.

“Our hope is to have Tony Kanaan and the 11 car as part of our IZOD IndyCar Series lineup again in 2011, and we are currently working very hard to find the necessary sponsorship to make that a reality,” Lopes said. “In the meantime, and although he remains under contract with Andretti Autosport, we have given Tony and his management the permission to talk with other IndyCar team-owners to explore what other alternatives might be available at this time.”

Based in Indianapolis, Andretti Autosport is owned by retired open-wheel star Michael Andretti, a longtime racing peer and friend of Kanaan.

Kanaan, 35, finished third in Saturday night’s season-ending Cafes do Brasil Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, ironically enough, after a late-race battle with Patrick. Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing won the 200-lapper over Patrick by 2.7587-seconds.

Kanaan and Patrick brushed wheels exiting Turn 4 of the 1.5-mile layout late in the event, a moment both addressed during their post-race comments.

“I clearly didn’t see Danica on the inside that time,” said Kanaan, who led four laps in the race’s first half after starting eighth. “It was a great run. Putting on a good show was the least we could do for the fans here tonight. I have to thank my crew. We had a moment there, but when we have a good car, it makes my life a whole lot easier. It was a good weekend as a team. I’m looking forward to next year.”

Patrick, who matched her season’s-best finish from June at Texas Motor Speedway, noted that she and Kanaan have “had our times together this year, at Indy and Texas and Iowa. And it was not a great year for teammates getting along and being buddy-buddy. And he definitely raced me hard here. But the point is that I beat him and that’s really all that matters.”

But Patrick added she felt Kanaan’s aggressive tactics prevented her from chasing down Dixon.

“You know, I mean, yeah, he raced me really hard,” Patrick said. “You guys (media) can have your own opinions as to what you think happened. It was the end of the season, and I know we’re in his hometown (Miami). So we didn’t crash. And that’s good. And that can always happen when you’re floating around out there at 220 (mph).

“So we didn’t. And he was smiling at the end and he apologized for coming in at the side of me on the front straight. So I’ll take that for what it is. And that we raced really hard and we both finished the race with almost no scratches.”

Kanaan placed sixth in the final point standings – the first driver not from either the powerful Target Chip Ganassi Racing or Team Penske camps. He has placed no lower than sixth in the standings since the 2003 season.

Kanaan posted his 14th career IndyCar victory at Iowa Speedway on June 20, when he took the lead from fellow-Brazilian Helio Castroneves of Team Penske with 11 laps to go. Kanaan led a season-high 62 of 250 laps after qualifying 15th.

It was Kanaan’s first victory since June 2008, and the highlight of a season that saw him post seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 17 races. His best start was second on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in the season’s second race. He has posted 10 career pole positions, but none since June 2008 at Richmond International Raceway.

Kanaan has made 132 IndyCar starts since his series debut in the 2002 Indianapolis 500 while driving fulltime for Mo Nunn Racing in the CART Series.

Kanaan won the 2004 IndyCar driver’s championship in dominating fashion for AGR, posting three wins, 15 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 16 starts.

After finishing eighth in the season-opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kanaan went on to record 15 consecutive top-five results, including victories at Phoenix International Raceway, Texas Motor Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway.

Additionally, Kanaan completed 3,305 laps in 2004 _ the first IndyCar driver to log every possible lap during a season. He also led a series-record 889 laps.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, October 4 2010
One Comment

One Comment »

  • Jessica says:

    Danica is ridiculous! She is a baby and needs to get over herself. TK is a class act and a great leader!