Skip to content

Kanaan: Oval racing about “playing the game” given power levels

May 27, 2013, 2:30 PM EDT

Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

At 38, and a veteran of open-wheel’s top level since 1998, Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan is well-versed on the various “styles” of racing that have occurred in ovals in either CART, IRL or IndyCar iterations.

The second year of IndyCar’s new Dallara DW12 chassis at Indianapolis once again featured a plethora of passing thanks to the “slingshot” effect created by a tow. The cars punch such a big hole in the air that drivers catch up to each other fairly easily. Passing was as prevalent on Sunday as crushed beer cans in Indy’s new “Snake pit,” Turn 3.

But for Kanaan, who raced in the CART-era “Hanford device” period, the racing now isn’t as random or affected by the aero slingshots as it was then. The device, created by aerodynamicist Mark Hanford, was used in CART from 1998 through 2002 on high-speed ovals at Michigan and California Speedways.

“I’ve driven all types of IndyCars, I would say,” Kanaan said Monday at IMS. “I drove the Champ Cars with the thousand horsepower, a lot of downforce.  Then we went to the Hanford device, which was worse than this as far as drafting.  This car has a little bit less.”

The Dallara DW12’s Chevrolet and Honda powerplants have only 550 horsepower for ovals. What that has done is altered the racing, but away from the scary and, at times, stupefying “pack racing” that plagued the IRL era, and also made it about positioning compared to the CART days when cars could come from nearly a second back to pass someone in one straightaway.

Kanaan would know, given his first major open-wheel win was a 500-mile CART race at Michigan in 1999, and he barely held off Juan Montoya after the Colombian hauled him in thanks to a monster tow.

“My most fun years were the years that we had the big horsepower cars and you just had to go flat out; it was pure racing speed,” Kanaan admitted. “You had the faster car, you’re going to take off and win this thing because you had a chance to lap the field.

“That’s not going to happen nowadays. Now you play the game we played yesterday.  You feel it out, what kind of car you have during the race, and you position yourself to win.”

Greater horsepower is a near universal desire of the field of drivers, but for now, Kanaan and others are playing with the resources at their disposal.

“So I would rather have more horsepower and do that.  But nowadays with the cost, it’s quite impossible for that to happen.”

Latest Posts
  1. Drivers ponder why cars didn’t go airborne during the Indianapolis 500

    May 25, 2015, 5:40 PM EDT

    Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power Juan Pablo Montoya, Will Power

    Runner-up Will Power said it’s as simple as making the cars slower.

  2. Juan Pablo Montoya feted by peers worldwide for Indy win

    May 25, 2015, 3:20 PM EDT

    Juan Pablo Montoya Juan Pablo Montoya

    After his second triumph in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, he is ovewhelmed by congratulatory messages.

  3. Montoya’s Indianapolis 500 win adds another storied chapter to the Roger Penske-Chip Ganassi rivalry

    May 25, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT

    Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske Chip Ganassi, Roger Penske

    They are the only car owners to win the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500 in the same season.

  4. WSR: Jaafar seizes championship lead with Monaco win

    May 25, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    © Renault Sport © Renault Sport

    The Mercedes-affiliated youngster clinches his first win of the season around the legendary streets of Monaco.

  5. WRC: Latvala claims first win of 2015 at Rally Portugal

    May 25, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    PORTO, PORTUGAL - MAY 24:
Jari Matti Latvala of Finland and Mikka Anttila of Finland compete in their Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R WRC during Day Three of the WRC Portugal on May 24, 2015 in Porto, Portugal.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images) Getty Images

    After a miserable run of form, Latvala finally climbs to the top step of the podium with a narrow win over Sebastien Ogier in Portugal.

  6. Indy 500 results: Andretti P6 in tough day for team; Hildebrand leads one-offs

    May 25, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    MAindy500 Getty Images

    Andretti ends sixth, best of the day for the defending Indy 500-winning team, while Hildebrand leads the one-off drivers.

  7. Grosjean hopes Verstappen learns from Monaco crash

    May 25, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Lotus F1 Team's French driver  Romain Grosjean  drives at the Monaco street circuit in Monte-Carlo on May 24, 2015, during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / ANDREJ ISAKOVIC        (Photo credit should read ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Running inside the top ten, Grosjean’s hopes of points were dashed on Sunday in Monaco when Max Verstappen crashed into him.

  8. Bell: “A wild Indy 500 without the finish we desired”

    May 25, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    Photo: DRR IndyCar Photo: DRR IndyCar

    Townsend Bell’s final blog for the Indianapolis 500 touches on family, meeting Jeff Gordon, and a crazy view from the driver’s seat.

  9. Raikkonen frustrated by poor qualifying form in 2015

    May 25, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    xxxx during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. Getty Images

    A sixth-place finish in Monaco disappoints Raikkonen, but he lays blame with his poor qualifying form.

  10. Pagenaud’s stellar month and best ever Indy 500 race to date ends P10

    May 25, 2015, 9:48 AM EDT

    PagsIndy500Final Getty Images

    One of Simon Pagenaud’s best oval races to date ends P10 after running top three most of race.

  11. Rosberg joins Hill, Prost and Senna as Monaco three-peat winners after gifted victory

    May 25, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme after winning the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The win may have come by accident, but Rosberg etched his place in F1 history on Sunday.

  12. Kvyat scores career-best result in Monaco after Ricciardo honors in-race agreement

    May 25, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT

    MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  Daniil Kvyat of Russia and Infiniti Red Bull Racing drives during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Red Bull boys finish fourth and fifth in Monaco to give the team something to smile about after a tough start to the season.

  13. Ryan: Juan Pablo Montoya comes full circle at Indianapolis

    May 24, 2015, 7:47 PM EDT

    150524-Juan-Pablo-Montoya Getty Images

    In his second win at the Brickyard, the Team Penske driver delivered a performance that embodies his style.

  14. Rahal once again leads Honda’s charge, banking another top-five in Indy 500

    May 24, 2015, 7:24 PM EDT

    RahalIMSp5 Getty Images

    Once again in 2015, it’s Graham Rahal and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing best of Honda’s brigade.

  15. Dixon leads most laps in Indy 500, 84, but ends unrepresentative fourth

    May 24, 2015, 7:12 PM EDT

    DixonIMSStop Getty Images

    A good, but not great day, occurs for Indianapolis 500 polesitter Scott Dixon.

  16. Kimball seizes his opportunity, ends third in Indy 500

    May 24, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    CK*3 Getty Images

    Kimball drives from 14th to third, a career-best in the Indianapolis 500.

  17. Montoya’s Indy 500 win extends his IndyCar points lead

    May 24, 2015, 5:30 PM EDT

    150524-Montoya Getty Images

    Montoya extends IndyCar points lead after Indianapolis 500.