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Kanaan’s Final Texas Race Will Be a Record-Ender

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 5 2020

2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan will take one last ride at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. (File photo courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Popular INDYCAR champion Tony Kanaan’s anticipated start in Saturday night’s Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway will put the brakes on an open-wheel racing streak worthy of the moniker “Ironman.”

Assuming Kanaan hot-laps incident-free during practice and qualifying around TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile oval, the native Brazilian’s streak of consecutive starts will reach 318 during the delayed/one-day 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season-opener. Kanaan’s streak began in June 2001 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway as part of a winless, 19-race Championship Auto Racing Teams schedule contested for Mo Nunn Racing.

Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic that forced sanctioning body INDYCAR to delay its opener from March 15 to Saturday has allowed Kanaan to add one more race to the list. Kanaan is booked to run only the series’ five oval-track races during his #TKLastLap campaign for team-owner/racing legend A.J. Foyt Jr. of Houston. The season originally was scheduled to open on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., where Kanaan would have been a spectator.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” said Kanaan, who will reunite with Irving-based 7-Eleven as primary sponsor on his green No. 14 Chevrolet at TMS. “Obviously, I was ready for that (streak) to end in March. I mean, while you’re doing it you don’t realize how big of a deal it is, I guess. Now I do value it more because it comes to an end. I’m assuming somebody one day is going to beat that. But until then, I think it’s pretty remarkable.”

Kanaan is a dedicated runner and cyclist who has competed in numerous triathlon and Ironman events. At age 45 and in his 24th season, Tony remains a physical match for drivers half his age. “That’s a true testament to how I took care of myself as well physically and mentally to be able weekend-in and weekend-out race in INDYCAR,” Kanaan said. “I’m glad I get to do it in Texas which has been a really, really good racetrack for me.”

Kanaan made the first of his record-tying 20 starts at TMS in 2003 with a runnerup finish for Andretti Green Racing. In his third season with Foyt’s Waller-based team, TK ranks first among open-wheelers at TMS in average finish (6.3) and is tied for first in top-five finishes (11, including five second-places) and top-10s (15). TK scored his lone TMS victory for Andretti Green in 2004, when he led 145 of 200 laps of “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race.”

Kanaan went on to win the 2004 series championship, becoming the first INDYCAR driver to complete every lap (3,305) of the 16-race season. Kanaan also led a series-record 889 laps in 2004. Driving for Team 7-Eleven, Kanaan clinched the title with a second-place finish in the October series race at TMS _ won by fellow-Brazilian and longtime friend Helio Castroneves of Marlboro Team Penske.

“Being reunited with 7-Eleven for the Texas race means a lot to me,” Kanaan said. “7-Eleven was my primary sponsor for eight straight seasons and the recognizable green car became my trademark.”

Responding to COVID-related health concerns, Saturday’s race _ shortened from 248 laps to 200 _ will be run without fans in the massive grandstands. Teams are scheduled to take the green flag at 8:10 p.m. (EDT), with network broadcast coverage on NBC starting in primetime at 8 p.m.  The Genesys 300 will be the first INDYCAR race aired in primetime on NBC and first series race on broadcast TV in primetime since 2013.

NBC Sports Network is scheduled to air a half-hour preview at 7:30 p.m. NBCSN also will air qualifying at 5 p.m. In addition, SiriusXM radio will carry qualifying and the race on Sirius channel 211, XM channel 205.

While Kanaan’s tenure with Foyt’s team admittedly has produced minimal on-track results, it has allowed TK to experience life with “Super Tex,” first four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. Foyt, 85, has turned over day-to-day operation of the organization to son/Team President Larry Foyt. The elder Foyt keeps busy these days on a tractor at his ranch in Del Rio, where he also avoided any symptoms of COVID-19.

“He comes in the shop and says ‘hi’ to us but stays back,” Larry Foyt said of his dad. ”He’s doing well. He’s not going to make this race, but he’s planning on probably coming to the Indy GP.” That event is scheduled for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road-course on July 4.

“You know, very interesting,” Kanaan said. “When I joined the team my goal is to improve the team and I think we had a decent first year. Last year we struggled a little bit more but A.J.’s been great to me. I mean, A.J. is A.J., right? He understands about racing, he was always on my side, always trying to make things better, always asking me…and to be honest, look at my career. I’ve raced for some big names in racing and to end up my career with A.J., I couldn’t expect that. The stories I got from Mario Andretti, A.J., Chip Ganassi _ I mean you name it _ it’s awesome.

“And A.J. is, believe it or not, the guy’s an old-timer but he knows what the race car needs. He doesn’t even need to look at a computer and he’s helping me a lot. I’ve always leaned on him. I wanted to know, I wanted to be like him. I mean, I said, ‘I’m running out of time.’ He said, ‘That’s BS because I retired when I was 58. You’re only 45.’ I said, ‘Well, give me a car to run and I’ll keep running!’

“The goal obviously, is to extract as much information as I can from him. The guy’s just awesome. Very aggressive. I think we have a very similar personalities. We really get pissed off and mad, which is why I think we get along. And it’s interesting at times, but I love the guy. I don’t know any other way to say it but he’s a bad-ass in my book, that’s for sure.”

Foyt Racing’s revised driver lineup for 2020 has brought in series veteran Charlie Kimball as fulltime driver of the No. 4 Tresiba Chevrolet. Kanaan and Kimball previously worked as teammates at Chip Ganassi Racing between 2014-17.

“I feel honored to be a part of Tony’s Last Lap in INDYCAR at A.J. Foyt Racing,” Kimball said. “We’re friends off the track. We train together. He’s gotten me addicted to riding a bicycle on a computer game. But also our wives are friends, and I think our families when we can get together and the kids can play, I think they’re going to interact really well. So that relationship is there. That friendship is there.

“And the experience _ I mean, I’ve learned a lot from him about how to restart on ovals and what you can and what you should and shouldn’t do and what he still does. So that experience is invaluable to me to continue to learn and get better. Like I said, I just feel really honored to be his teammate during his Last Lap, especially when we get back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.” The 104th edition of the Indy 500 has been rescheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23, the fourth stop on Kanaan’s exit tour.

Kanaan’s 17 career victories to-date have been capped by an emotional win in the 2013 Indianapolis 500 with KV Racing Technology. Victory in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” reduced TK to tears as he fulfilled promises made to his father, Antoine Rizkallah Kanaan, on the night before he died after a two-year battle with cancer. The elder Kanaan instructed 13-year-old Tony to take care of his mother and never quit racing.

“He passed the next day,” said Tony, who began competing in karts in 1986. “And I was going to win the Indy 500 one day for him. For me, it’s this. It’s the accomplishment. Yeah, victories, 500s, championships…those were all great. But I think what I take most out of it was for me to be able to do a sport that I love, to become extremely successful in a sport that I dedicated my entire life for. And then to be loved by my fans and hopefully set an example for the next generation that it’s possible. Even a kid that has no money, doesn’t have a dad to help him out, that has nobody alongside him and it still can be done.

“I hope I can inspire every single person in this world that wants to be something. It doesn’t necessarily needs to be a race car driver. I hope I can inspire people to do what they love.”

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GENESYS 300 ENTRY LIST

Here is the official entry list for the NTT IndyCar Series Genesys 300 scheduled for Saturday night on the high-banked/1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Lineup listed by car number in parentheses, driver, hometown, car/team and engine:

(1) Josef Newgarden, Nashville, Tenn., XPEL Team Penske/Team Penske Chevrolet

(4) Charlie Kimball, Camarillo, Calif., TRESIBA/AJ FOYT RACING/A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet

(5) Pato O’Ward, Monterey, Mexico, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet/Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

(7) Oliver Askew-(R), Jupiter, Fla., Arrow McLaren SP/Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

(8) Marcus Ericsson, Kumla, Sweden, Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

(9) Scott Dixon, Auckland, New Zealand, PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 

(10) Felix Rosenqvist, Värnamo, Sweden, NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing/Chip Ganassi Racing Honda 

(12) Will Power, Toowoomba, Australia, Verizon Team Penske/Team Penske Chevrolet

(14) Tony Kanaan, Salvador, Brazil, 7-ELEVEN/AJ FOYT RACING/A.J. Foyt Enterprises Chevrolet

(15) Graham Rahal, New Albany, Ohio, Fleet Cost & Care/Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

 (18) Santino Ferrucci, Woodbury, Conn., SealMaster/Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan Honda 

(20) Ed Carpenter, Indianapolis, Ind., Ed Carpenter Racing/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

(21) Rinus VeeKay-(R), Hoofddorp, Netherlands, Sonax Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

(22) Simon Pagenaud, Montmorillon, France, DXC Technology Team Penske/Team Penske Chevrolet

(26) Zach Veach, Stockdale, Ohio, Gainbridge Andretti Autosport Honda 

(27) Alexander Rossi, Nevada City, Calif., NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Andretti Autosport Honda

(28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., DHL Andretti Autosport Honda

(29) James Hinchcliffe, Toronto, Canada, Genesys Andretti Autosport Honda

(30) Takuma Sato, Tokyo, Japan, ABeam Consulting Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda

(55) Alex Palou-(R), Barcelona, Spain, Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh/Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda

(59) Conor Daly, Noblesville, Ind., Gallagher Carlin/Carlin Chevrolet

 (60) Jack Harvey, Lincoln, England, AutoNation/Sirius XM Meyer Shank Racing Honda

(88) Colton Herta, Belleair, Fla., Capstone Turbine Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport Honda 

(98) Marco Andretti, Nazareth, Pa., U.S. Concrete/Curb Andretti Herta with Marco & Curb-Agajanian Honda 

(R) _ Denotes Rookie of the Year candidate.

All cars use fourth-generation NTT IndyCar Series chassis (Dallara IR12) with universal IR-18 aerodynamic bodywork; Chevrolet or Honda 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged, direct-injected V-6 engines and Firestone Firehawk tires.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, June 5 2020
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