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. IndyCar: Andretti adds fifth car for GP of Indy for Franck Montagny

    Apr 23, 2014, 10:18 AM EDT

    Andretti Autosport driver Carlos Munoz of Colombia drives practice laps on the second day of qualifications in Indianapolis Reuters

    Andretti Autosport brings in a talented road-course ringer, Franck Montagny, for the inaugural GP of Indianapolis.

  2. Raikkonen: Yes, he’s still motivated, otherwise he wouldn’t be here

    Apr 23, 2014, 10:05 AM EDT

    KimiChina Getty Images

    Kimi Raikkonen owns critics who are questioning his motivation in typical Kimi style.

  3. Compass360 adds CTF “Art Car” to PWC

    Apr 23, 2014, 9:41 AM EDT

    Photo: CTF Photo: CTF

    Compass360′s cars will have “Art Car” design as created by an NF hero.

  4. Mike Conway ready to double up on Long Beach IndyCar win this Sunday in Alabama

    Apr 22, 2014, 9:19 PM EDT

    ConwayLB2 AP

    Mike Conway’s come-from-behind IndyCar win at Long Beach nearly two weeks ago may have been a surprise to some. But it wasn’t a surprise to team owner Ed Carpenter or Conway himself. They both had confidence in each other for a strong run and a high finish – and the win was just an added bonus.

  5. After Shanghai letdown, McLaren’s Boullier tells team ‘don’t panic’

    Apr 22, 2014, 8:40 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain - Previews Getty Images

    With McLaren’s podium-less 2013 in mind, the team’s racing director is doing all he can to keep the troops calm after a poor Chinese Grand Prix.

  6. ‘Rookie’ Kurt Busch, 1995 champ Jacques Villeneuve, three more to undergo Indy 500 orientation/refresher

    Apr 22, 2014, 8:21 PM EDT

    Jacques Villeneuve will be making his first return trip to Indianapolis since winning there in 1995 -- and only his third race ever there -- for this year's Indy 500. AP

    It’s been 14 years since Kurt Busch was last called a rookie. And even though Busch has a Sprint Cup championship trophy at home, he’s still a rookie open-wheel driver as far as the Indianapolis 500 is concerned.

  7. Red Bull tweaks Mercedes over attempt to increase ‘Fuelgate’ punishment

    Apr 22, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China Getty Images

    Red Bull’s anonymous “Spy” says that their main rivals are getting “rattled and sweating a bit.”

  8. NASCAR AMERICA: Scan All 43 – Kurt Busch breaks winless streak, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon still without wins

    Apr 22, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT

    NASCAR America

    On Tuesday’s edition of NASCAR AMERICA, Leigh Diffey and Wally Dallenbach took a look back at the March 30th STP 500 at Martinsville Raceway and Kurt Busch’s win, which snapped an 83-race winless streak. We also look back at the rain-postponed Duck Commander 500 at Texas on April 7, as well as how Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who have 10 Sprint Cup championships between them, but neither driver has visited victory lane yet in 2014.

  9. Veteran pit crew coach Lance Munksgard leaves Hendrick Motorsports, NASCAR

    Apr 22, 2014, 6:11 PM EDT

    Lance Munksgard, pit crew coach for the teams of Jimmie Johnson (above) and Dale Earnhardt Jr., has left Hendrick Motorsports to work in his family's business in Texas. (Photo courtesy Hendrick Motorsports) Lance Munksgard, pit crew coach for the teams of Jimmie Johnson (above) and Dale Earnhardt Jr., has left Hendrick Motorsports to work in his family's business in Texas. (Photo courtesy Hendrick Motorsports)

    One of the most effective and successful pit crew coaches in the business has not only left Hendrick Motorsports, he’s also left NASCAR. Lance Munksgard, who had served as coach for the pit crews of both Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. since November 2011, has returned to his native Texas to work in his family’s business, according to MRN.com.

  10. IndyCar: Helio Castroneves on probation for social media policy violation

    Apr 22, 2014, 5:30 PM EDT

    Pocono INDYCAR 400 Getty Images

    A critical tweet from the three-time Indy 500 champion’s account – which he says came from his sister – has put him on probation through June 30.

  11. WATCH LIVE: NASCAR AMERICA at 5 p.m. ET

    Apr 22, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    nascar america

    It’s another “Scan All 43″ showcase today, as Races 5-8 of this year’s Sprint Cup championship are profiled.

  12. Excited to join Ed Carpenter Racing, J.R. Hildebrand has unfinished business at Indy 500

    Apr 22, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT

    Indianapolis 500 - Practice Getty Images

    If he had his way, J.R. Hildebrand would run the Indianapolis 500 tomorrow. The 2011 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year is looking forward to returning to the fabled Brickyard for this year’s edition of the 500 on May 25 for three primary reasons.

  13. Richmond’s personal for Daniel Knost, Kurt Busch’s crew chief

    Apr 22, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    STP 500 - Practice Getty Images

    He believes that a win last fall at Richmond was taken away from him and his SHR crewmates.

  14. Former CART championship and Indy 500 winning owner Steve Horne putting the ‘Super’ in V8 Supercars

    Apr 22, 2014, 3:32 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy V8Supercars.com.Au) (Photo courtesy V8Supercars.com.Au)

    After winning an Indianapolis 500 win (1986, with Bobby Rahal behind the wheel), two CART championships and five Indy Lights titles – Steve Horne went back to his native New Zealand two years ago. But Horne isn’t the retiring type. Nor is he part of a “Where Are They Now?” question. If anything, Horne is as busy as he’s ever been, both running his own team as well as serving as chairman of the V8 Supercars Commission in New Zealand and Australia.

  15. Alex Zanardi finishes 13th in Blancpain GT Sprint debut

    Apr 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

    Late clutch problems force the former CART champion and F1 pilot out of a likely Top-10 finish.

  16. See what it’s like to race Long Beach through a driver’s eyes (VIDEO)

    Apr 22, 2014, 2:34 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy MikeSkeen.com/Ben Carufel) (Photo courtesy MikeSkeen.com/Ben Carufel)

    Whether it be NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA or sports car racing, it’s become fairly routine for TV broadcasts to give in-car action during the course of a race. But it’s rare to actually see an entire race on video from the driver’s seat. That’s why we really enjoyed Mike Skeen’s video from last week’s Pirelli World Challenge GT race in Long Beach.

  17. NNS: JR Motorsports adding Super Late Model driver Austin Theriault for 3 races

    Apr 22, 2014, 2:01 PM EDT

    Drive To Stop Diabetes 300 - Practice Getty Images

    The 20-year-old has been competing for Brad Keselowski’s Super Late Model team for the past two seasons.

  18. Scratch Clint Bowyer from the ranks of NASCAR’s most eligible bachelors

    Apr 22, 2014, 1:13 PM EDT

    If Clint Bowyer is smiling more often than normal these days, it's because he's now a married man. Getty Images

    If Clint Bowyer is your heartthrob, it’s time to start looking for another as the Emporia, Kansas, native spent last weekend’s Easter break getting hitched to long time girlfriend Lorra Podsiadilo. In the Bahamas, no less.

  19. Red Bull GRC: F1/NASCAR vet Nelson Piquet Jr. to drive for SH Racing

    Apr 22, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    Credit: SH Racing Rallycross Credit: SH Racing Rallycross

    The son of the three-time F1 champion is shifting gears once again.

  20. Tony Kanaan not worried over slow start with Ganassi

    Apr 22, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT

    Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Getty Images

    His first two races with Target Chip Ganassi Racing haven’t yielded strong results, but the reigning Indy 500 champ tells an Indianapolis radio show that it isn’t the first time he’s had to rally.

Today on NASCAR AMERICA

More from NASCAR America

Why Gordon, Johnson haven't won yet
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. B. Myers (1415)
  2. T. Hessert (1398)
  3. J. Boston (1373)
  4. P. Kligerman (1334)
  5. A. Seuss (1330)
  1. J. Myers (1304)
  2. B. Jones (1283)
  3. C. Whitt (1268)
  4. L. Fleming (1223)
  5. B. Loftin (1164)

Featured video

Lewis Hamilton thanks his 'angels'