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Kanaan gearing up for Ganassi switch, first test

Nov 7, 2013, 10:00 AM EDT

Indianapolis 500 Getty Images

There’s only been a couple weeks since the 2013 IndyCar season ended, and already preparations are well underway for the first round of offseason testing.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, with his KV Racing Technology stint over, can now properly look ahead to his new ride with Chip Ganassi Racing.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me, to join the team that just won the championship,” he said at the Borg-Warner display at the SEMA Show on Tuesday. “It’s quite remarkable to be able to go there at this stage in my career.”

Kanaan confirmed his longtime engineer, Eric Cowdin, will make the move with him to Ganassi but doesn’t know how many of the rest of his “band” of crewmembers can switch as well. In Kanaan’s words, “not my department.”

It seems weird to fathom that in this, the 16th season of his illustrious open-wheel career dating to 1998, that Kanaan had his highest one-race high (Indy) but a career-low in the championship, since he switched from CART to the then-Indy Racing League in 2003. Since his switch, Kanaan had not finished outside the top 10 in points and ninth last year had been his previous worst. He ended 11th in 2013.

“Yeah we really had a lot of ups and downs,” he explained. “The championship result was my worst ever, and that tells you how much we focused on the oval races to win the 500. We went that route and it worked. We set a goal, because we knew we couldn’t compete for the championship with our budget and all that stuff. We won the race that we needed to.”

Of the competition level, Kanaan says it continues to get “deeper and deeper,” and you never know how much deeper it will get.

He does enter 2014 with the peace of mind of not needing to pursue a budget to make the CGR opportunity happen, as he had to do each of the past three years with KV. NTT Data will back his entry.

“Yeah that helps a lot,” he said. “It takes a big weight off my shoulders. I can just worry about winning and racing, and I’m relieved because of that.”

Kanaan’s first test is December 4 at Sebring. He’s optimistic he’ll be in one of the two CGR Riley Ford Daytona Prototypes at the opening round of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

He’ll also have the built-in advantage of having raced Chevrolet twin-turbocharged IndyCar engine before. That will be new to his teammates, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Charlie Kimball, at their first tests.

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