Skip to content

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

May 27, 2013, 2:30 PM EST

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. F1 cars to be fitted with high-speed cameras from 2016 to aid accident analysis and investigations

    Feb 27, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-BRA-F1-RACE Getty Images

    F1 Commission agrees on changes for 2016 season in a bid to help aid investigations into accidents.

  2. Alexander Rossi confirms return to GP2 in 2015 with Racing Engineering

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:32 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Practice Getty Images

    American driver secures a seat in GP2 after a turbulent 2014 campaign.

  3. FIA issues updated F1 entry list including “Manor Marussia”

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:17 AM EST

    F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Previews Getty Images

    FIA confirms that Manor Marussia does have a place on the grid in 2015, relying it complies with the new technical regulations.

  4. Force India VJM08 breaks cover in Barcelona

    Feb 27, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    © Force India © Force India

    26 days after the rest of the F1 field, Force India gets its 2015 car out on track for the first time.

  5. Fernando Alonso thanks fans for support following crash

    Feb 27, 2015, 7:41 AM EST

    AUTO-F1-ESP-TEST-MCLAREN Getty Images

    Spaniard posts a video on YouTube giving an update on his condition.

  6. Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Thursday

    Feb 26, 2015, 4:00 PM EST

    Kvyat 262 Getty Images

    Massa flourishes, McLaren and Mercedes flounder, and Ferrari goes all 50 Shades of Rosso Corsa…

  7. Massa: Williams improving, but still trailing Mercedes

    Feb 26, 2015, 3:00 PM EST

    AUTO-F1-ESP-TEST-WILLIAMS Getty Images

    Brazilian driver still believes that Mercedes has the best car in F1 this year.

  8. Hamilton loses afternoon running due to MGU-K failure

    Feb 26, 2015, 2:00 PM EST

    Hamilton 262a Getty Images

    Briton still manages to finish third on Thursday, but is limited to just 48 laps following the power unit issue.

  9. Sainz Jr. pleased with Toro Rosso upgrades in final test

    Feb 26, 2015, 1:45 PM EST

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-ESP-TEST Getty Images

    F1 rookie happy with the final raft of updates on the STR10 ahead of the first race of the year in Australia.

  10. Carmen Jorda joins Lotus F1 Team as development driver

    Feb 26, 2015, 1:00 PM EST

    © Lotus F1 Team © Lotus F1 Team

    Spanish racer will get a chance to test the E23 Hybrid out on track at least once in 2015.

  11. Massa fastest for Williams as final F1 pre-season test begins

    Feb 26, 2015, 12:01 PM EST

    Massa 262 Getty Images

    Brazilian driver posts the fastest time of testing so far; underpins pace with mighty haul of laps.

  12. Gutierrez excited by possibility of Mexican GP practice run-out

    Feb 26, 2015, 11:00 AM EST

    Ferrari Filming Day Getty Images

    Ferrari reserve driver speaks after completing his first running in the new SF15-T at a filming day in Barcelona.

  13. Hydraulic leak sidelines Button and McLaren once again in Barcelona

    Feb 26, 2015, 10:00 AM EST

    F1 Testing In Barcelona - Day One Getty Images

    More woe for McLaren on day one of the final F1 pre-season test in Barcelona.

  14. Webber: Vettel needed fresh motivation in F1

    Feb 26, 2015, 9:00 AM EST

    Ferrari Filming Day Getty Images

    Ex-Red Bull driver believes that Vettel will be rejuvenated following his move to Ferrari for 2015.

  15. Hulkenberg to debut new Force India on Friday afternoon

    Feb 26, 2015, 8:15 AM EST

    Hulkenberg 262 Getty Images

    The VJM08 will finally make its on-track debut with three days to go in winter testing.

  16. Ron Dennis clears up Alonso crash rumors; confirms he was briefly knocked unconscious but was not concussed

    Feb 26, 2015, 7:27 AM EST

    Alonso 262 Getty Images

    McLaren CEO meets with the media to quash incorrect reports surrounding Alonso’s accident in testing.

  17. DiZinno: The dilemma for Justin Wilson and others, is teams as much as budget

    Feb 25, 2015, 5:13 PM EST

    Shell And Pennzoil Grand Prix Of Houston Getty Images

    Justin Wilson’s offseason plight isn’t only budget-related, but due to a reduced number of available opportunities in IndyCar.

  18. American Brad Hollinger increases stake in Williams up to 10 percent

    Feb 25, 2015, 2:45 PM EST

    Felipe Massa, Valtteri Bottas AP

    Brad Hollinger’s investment in Williams’ ownership moves from 5 to 10 percent.

  19. F1: Lineups thus far for final Barcelona test

    Feb 25, 2015, 2:21 PM EST

    F1 Testing In Barcelona - Day Two Getty Images

    Lineups and running order ahead of this week’s Barcelona test.

  20. Szafnauer: First test focused on tires, Wehrlein evaluation

    Feb 25, 2015, 11:27 AM EST

    PascalFI Getty Images

    What Force India couldn’t gain in car evaluation it could gain in 2015 tire and different driver evaluation last week in Barcelona.