Kanaan Rises To The Top At Indy 500 Practice

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 20 2021

Tony Kanaän was fastest at Indy on Thursday. (File photo courtesy of INDYCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Tony Kanaan’s INDYCAR resume is stacked.  The popular Brazilian won the 2004 NTT IndyCar Series championship and the 2013 Indianapolis 500, all part of a record “Ironman” streak of 318 consecutive races that ended last June 6 after the 2020 season-opener at Texas Motor Speedway.

And so, TK, what’s it like being Jimmie Johnson’s car valet at Chip Ganassi Racing?

“I’m excited with the responsibility of the No. 48, having Jimmie asking me to take care of his car,” said Kanaan, good-naturedly anticipating his first starts of 2021 in the Genesys 300/XPEL 375 doubleheader at TMS earlier this month. “I keep reminding him it’s Chip’s car but it’s his number.”

Kanaan put up the number of the day Thursday during practice for the 105th Indianapolis 500, hot-lapping the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 225.341 mph. Kanaan, 46 and still super-fit, paced a pack of 35 cars prepping to secure one of 33 starting spots in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 30.

“Today has been the hottest day so far this week, so we’ve been able to do a couple of things to kind of do the cookbook,” said Kanaan, who is in his second tour with CGR. “You’re just trying to check the weather, what are we running in this type of weather, trying to guess when you’re going to qualify and then try to guess what’s going to happen next Sunday when we take the green flag. We’re just working on racing setup.”

Kanaan has logged 17 wins and 15 poles during an INDYCAR career that began in 1998. Kanaan, whose first tour of duty with CGR ended in 2015, is in the first season of a new two-year contract with Ganassi. Kanaan finished 11th in the Genesys 300 on May 1 in Fort Worth and 15th in the XPEL 375 om May 2.

Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, is tackling INDYCAR’s road and street-courses as teammate to six-time/reigning series champion Scott Dixon of New Zealand, Alex Palou of Spain and “TK.” Kanaan, who made six starts last season with A.J. Foyt Racing, rejoined CGR during the offseason to run the series’ four oval-track events in 2021 _ and mentor Johnson.

Tony Kanaan at the wheel of the No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing car on Thursday.

Practice is scheduled to resume from noon-6 p.m. (EDT) on “Fast Friday.” It’s the first day with elevated boost levels in the Chevrolet and Honda V-6 engine turbochargers, and continues through Saturday and Sunday for  Qualifying. The additional boost will add between 80 and 90 horsepower and increase speeds.

Pato O’ Ward, who scored his first series win in the XPEL 375 in Fort Worth, welcomed the additional boost from sanctioning body INDYCAR.

“Man, it’s sketchy in traffic,” said O’Ward, a native of Mexico and driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. “Whenever you’re behind two cars, three cars, it’s OK. You feel like the actual balance of the car. As soon as you’re like 12th in line, you just want your car to be the least trashed as everyone else’s. No car is going to feel good, unless you want to prove me wrong.”

Rinus Veekay, who scored his first series victory Saturday in the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road-course, reported similar aerodynamic frustration. “The first four (cars) can kind of battle around, kind of swap positions,” said Veekay, a native of The Netherlands and driver of the No. 21 Bitcoin Chevrolet fielded by Ed Carpenter Racing. “But then when you’re like ninth or 10th, it just feels like you have wooden tires.”

O’Ward added, “Feels like the car completely goes whop.”

Conor Daly continued his strong week for ECR by placing second at 225.245 mph in the No. 47 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet. Santino Ferrucci was third at 224.922 mph in the No. 45 Hy-Vee Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing during an abbreviated day.

Ferrucci was transported to IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for further evaluation of his left foot after being involved in the first major incident of practice this week. At 4:14 p.m., Ferrucci’s car did a quarter-spin to the left in Turn 2 and made hard rear contact with the SAFER Barrier before stopping on the back straightaway. The rear of the car suffered heavy damage.

Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden was fourth-fastest at 224.885 mph in the No. 2 Shell Fuel Rewards Team Penske Chevrolet. Dixon, fastest in practice Wednesday, ended up fifth at 224.666 mph in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda.

Teams will focus on qualifying setups Friday in preparation for the drama and speed of Saturday and Sunday. Jack Harvey of Great Britain was the fastest driver without benefit of an aerodynamic tow _ similar conditions to single-car qualifying _ at 222.091 mph in the No. 60 AutoNation/SiriusXM Honda fielded by Meyer Shank Racing.

Thursday’s practice opened with an episode of first-lap drama. Colton Herta, driving the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda, brushed the Turn 4 wall and the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet driven by rookie Scott McLaughlin after the New Zealander and the No. 16 Rocket Pro TPO/Paretta Autosport Chevrolet driven by Simona De Silvestro of Switzerland slowed due to three Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing cars running in “photo-op” formation on the front straightaway on the first lap of the session.

“So, I saw Scott and Simona come out in front of me,” said Herta, winner on the Streets of St. Pete last month for Andretti Autosport.  “At first I thought they were doing pit stop practice, but they came around for a lap. I thought they were on a run. They were quite a bit ahead of me. Seemed like they were up to speed. Then lost sight of them going through (Turn) 3, they were exiting 4. As I was exiting 4, they were probably going like 150, 160. The three up-front were probably going 90 to 100 miles an hour.

“Hopefully some good can come out of this. Hopefully we can allot some times in the beginning of sessions or later in the day if teams would like to do this sort of thing. Glad that my car is OK. Obviously, it’s my Speedway car, so it’s all done up for the Speedway. It’s the fastest one I have. I’m glad that it didn’t damage anything. Actually really surprised that it didn’t damage anything.”

Per INDYCAR Rulebook Rule 9.3.1, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was penalized for improper conduct, and its three cars _ driven by two-time/reigning 500 winner Takuma Sato of Japan, Graham Rahal and Ferrucci _ will not be allowed to participate in the first 30 minutes of practice Friday.

“Yeah, I mean, it’s appropriate,” said Herta, addressing the RLLR penalty. “I understand what they were trying to do. Probably just wasn’t the right place or time to do it.”

Herta and McLaughlin returned to the track later after Andretti Autosport and Team Penske checked their respective cars in Gasoline Alley.

On Wednesday, Dixon drove Chip Ganassi Racing to the top of the speed chart at 226.829 mph. The 2008 Indy 500 winner, Dixon led three CGR drivers in the top five.

Australian Will Power, the 2018 Indy 500 champ, led practice Tuesday at 226.470 mph in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet. Both of those laps were aided by an aerodynamic tow in the draft.

Live Race Day coverage will be carried on NBC and the INDYCAR Radio Network beginning at 11 a.m. (EDT), on Sunday, May 30, with the green flag set for 12:30 p.m.

NTT IndyCar Series point standings: 1, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing, 176; 2, Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, 163; 3, Josef Newgarden, Team Penske, 148; 4, Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP, 146; 5, Graham Rahal, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 137; 6, Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing, 135; 7, Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske, 130; 8, Scott McLaughlin, Team Penske, 123; 9, Will Power, Team Penske, 118; 10, Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport, 117.


Sunday, April 18 _ Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala. (Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, April 25 _Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla. (Colton Herta, Andretti Autosport)

Saturday, May 1 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 1, Fort Worth (Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing)

Sunday, May 2 _ Texas Motor Speedway Race 2, Fort Worth (Pato O’Ward, Arrow McLaren SP)

Saturday, May 15 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing)

Sunday, May 30 _ The 105th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (NBC)

Saturday, June 12 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 1, Detroit (NBC)

Sunday, June 13 _ The Raceway at Belle Isle Park Race 2, Detroit (NBC)

Sunday, June 20 _ Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis. (NBCSN)

Sunday, July 4 _ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio (NBC)

Sunday, Aug. 8 _ Streets of Nashville, Tenn. (NBCSN)

Saturday, Aug. 14 _ Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road-Course (NBCSN)

Saturday, Aug. 21 _ World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Madison, Ill. (NBCSN)

Sunday, Sept. 12 _ Portland (Ore.) International Raceway (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 19 _ WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif. (NBC)

Sunday, Sept. 26 _ Streets of Long Beach, Calif. (NBC)

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, May 20 2021
No Comment

Comments are closed.