Aug 29, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT
He’s run Ironman triathlons before, but this week Tony Kanaan’s status as IndyCar’s “ironman” is cemented. He’ll set a series record for number of consecutive starts, with his 212th in a row eclipsing the mark set by his team principal and former rival Jimmy Vasser in this weekend’s Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.
It’s a streak that has spanned more than 12 years, since the 2001 CART season. The last race Kanaan failed to start was at Detroit in 2001, when he suffered a concussion after a practice crash. He’ll break Vasser’s record driving “JV’s” No. 11 Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Chevrolet.
“It obviously proves that I’ve been around for a long time, that’s for sure. But obviously it’s a remarkable achievement,” Kanaan noted during a media teleconference on Wednesday. “I didn’t want to be beating one of my best friends in life and nowadays my boss, Jimmy. But I guess I get to brag about that. I guess I can’t brag as much until I get to Sunday’s race because Jimmy has the power not to let me start this race if he wants to!”
There’s been a couple times Kanaan has raced hurt, and after his serious accident in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 when he smacked a non-SAFER protected wall, he came close to missing Milwaukee the following week.
“The closest I think lately was that big crash I had at Indy, was that ’09, I lost the suspension,” Kanaan said. “The next weekend was Milwaukee. I was hurting. I had two broken ribs. I actually could barely walk to the car. That was the closest I got not to race.I had a concussion in Detroit, which I stayed out. That’s when the streak started out after in Portland. That concussion, back in the day, the technology and all the resources we have was not as accurate. I still think I wasn’t right the week after that I went to Portland. I started the race, but I crashed three corners later and took (Alex) Zanardi out with me, my teammate.”
Vasser reflected on his driver’s achievement and noted the symbolism of Kanaan setting the record in Baltimore.
“It just goes to show how tough he is,” Vasser said. “He’s been driving through injuries, not only this year, but many times through the course of this streak. There’s nobody else better. It’s kind of ironic that he’s in the team and driving for us. I think it’s a pretty cool thing. And we’re doing it in Baltimore where the real Ironman Cal Ripken really built the house.”