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Kanaan Heads Back For Seconds At The Brickyard

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, July 23 2013

Tony Kanaan takes a milk bath after winning his first Indy 500 two months ago. He will go for the Indy double this weekend. (Photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Apparently, it’s the best-tasting meal in auto racing: 100-year-old red brick coated with a thin film of motor oil and lightly sprinkled with a gritty dusting of pulverized rubber. It’s so good that Tony Kanaan just could not wait a whole year to put his lips to another helping.

During a teleconference on Tuesday afternoon, Kanaan drooled at the thought of earning the right to help himself to seconds of sun-dried brick by winning this week’s Rolex Grand-Am Sport Car race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I was thinking about that on the way here,” Kanaan, who won the 2013 Indianapolis 500 just two months ago, said of his return to the world’s most famous speedway. “I haven’t been to the track since the 500. For sure it will give me a great feeling when I drive through the tunnel for the first time, look at the pagoda, all the things. It’s very emotional for me every time I go there, even before. So it’s awesome.”

Returning to Indy so soon was not really the plan for Kanaan when he left the Speedway in May. A full-time driver in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Kanaan changed his plan when he got a call from Chip Ganassi and Mike Hull of Chip Ganassi Racing a couple weeks ago. The Ganassi team had secured enough funding to field a second Grand-Am BMW Riley Prototype for the Indy race and offered the seat to Kanaan after scheduled driver Ryan Briscoe was injured.

And Kanaan jumped. “It doesn’t matter what kind of race you do inIndianapolis,” he said, “any driver wants to win, no doubt about it.”

Kanaan has made several starts in sports cars. He’s won in an American Le Mans Series car at Sebring and he has twice raced Grand-Am GT cars in the Daytona 24.

But Indy will see him get into a DP car for the first time. He will spend as much time as possible behind the wheel when practice starts on Thursday.

“I’ve never driven one of these cars,” Kanaan said. “I’m going to have to learn a lot in the first day. I will do anything I can do to help the team.”

The team will be helping Kanaan as well and that could be huge as the CGR paddock is loaded with top-tier sports car racers. Sharing the ride in the No. 02 CGR car will be veteran sports car racer and current German touring car driver Joey Hand.

Also helping will be the multi-championship-winning co-drivers of the No. 1 CGR BMW Riley – Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.

“I think I’m going to lean a lot on Scott and Joey to teach me,” Kanaan said. “A couple days ago I got an email from Tim (Keene), our team manager at Ganassi, four pages that I had to learn, all the switches and stuff. Of course, I think we have a little bit of time on Thursday for me to learn that. Even to learn the racetrack.

“It’s funny to say that I don’t know the track. The track I know runs the opposite way and only turns left. We’ll take it a little bit at a time. I’ve done a few ALMS races in the past where we didn’t have a lot of testing. We did pretty well at Sebring, we won. I think it’s going to be a little bit of a learning curve for me. I’m willing to do anything it takes for us to perform. If that means that I’ve got to sit out and just watch and learn, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

Thing is, Hand will be doing a bit of learning himself this weekend.

“No, nothing similar,” Hand said when asked if his DTM touring car is similar to the DP. “The DTM car is its own beast, engines are totally different. I think the only thing, it will be a six-speed in the DTM car. We still use a lever to shift. The revs would be closer to what the DTM revs are. Instead of the low-revving engine like we had before, it will be a little more high-revving.”

The drivers are not the only people at CGR who will be learning things this weekend as the Indy race will mark the debut of a new BMW engine. Gone will be the old M5-based engine. In its place will be an M3 based version.

“The current engine we’ve been running,” Pruet said, “it’s the end of its life. It’s seen everything it can see. It’s done a great job for us. We feel making this next step is just the start of a new long future that we’ll have together with it.

“We did a little bit of a test at Watkins Glen. From my point of view driving it, the biggest initial challenge was shifting at the higher rpm. We’ve been used to shifting at 6,800 to 7,000 for year after year, and that’s significantly different. Shifting into sixth gear, as well. A number of those things that don’t seem big, but when you’re used to doing it year after year after year, it ends up being pretty significant.We’re looking forward to it as a team, as an organization, feel this is the next step in the development and relationship we have with BMW and one we’re looking forward to for the rest of this season and beyond.”

Tony Kanaan will not be the only high-profile Brazilian making his Indy DP debut this weekend. Former Formula 1 and IndyCar Series driver Rubens Barrichello will be driving for Doran Racing this week.

Barrichello, the most experienced driver in the history of Formula One with 322 career starts and the winner of the F1 event at Indy in 2002, will share Doran Racing’s No. 77 3-Dimensional.com Ford/Dallara with Floridian Doug Peterson.

“He just has to do everything I do, that guy,” Kanaan joked.

“No, just kidding. I’m happy. He’s a good friend, almost like a brother to me. It was such a coincidence because I didn’t know he was doing that. He didn’t know I was doing it.

“We were on vacation in Orlando a couple weeks ago. Like basically pretty much in the same day we got the calls. Like I said, ‘Man, you can’t believe what happened, I’m going to do this.’ He’s like, ‘You can’t believe what’s happening, I’m going to do that, too.’

Kanaan and Barrichello were teammates at KV Racing Technology during last year’s IndyCar season.

“He moved back to Brazil after the IndyCar season last year,” Kanaan said “He’s doing stock cars back home. He does have a little bit of an upper hand. He knows this track. He won the last Formula 1 race here. I don’t know if it was the last one, but he won the F1 race here back in the day. He knows the track. I’m excited for him. I heard he’s testing today in Putnam Park. I’ll talk to him at the end of the day and wish him the best.”

Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa will arrive in Indy as owners of a two-race winning streak.

After finishing second at Belle Isle Park in Detroit on June 1, the drivers of the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP won the two most recent Rolex Series races at Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen.

The teammates for Action Express Racing ran the opening three races of the season with different co-drivers, then finished 12th in their first outing together at Road Atlanta. The recent surge moves Fittipaldi to third in the championship – four points behind co-leaders Jordan Taylor/Max Angelelli and Ryan Dalziel/Alex Popow. Barbosa is fifth in the standings, two points behind his teammate and one point behind Jon Fogarty/Alex Gurney.

Starworks Motorsport – the defending winner of the Brickyard Grand Prix – will have BMW power for Indianapolis and the remainder of the 2014 season.

Alex Popow returns with Ryan Dalziel in the No. 2 Soloson BMW/Riley, while Brendon Hartley and Scott Mayer share the No. 8 entry. Popow won the Brickyard Grand Prix one year ago alongside co-driver Sebastien Bourdais.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, July 23 2013
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