Skip to content

Kanaan set for more than just Indy 500 success with Ganassi switch in 2014

Mar 10, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan AP

One glorious, vintage Tony Kanaan restart was all it took for the Brazilian to finally check off the one remaining unchecked box on his IndyCar career checklist last year.

After passing Ryan Hunter-Reay on the inside with Carlos Munoz following to “RHR’s” outside, Kanaan had the lead into Turn 1, and a crash by Dario Franchitti moments later left the race under caution.

Kanaan, had, at long last, won the Indianapolis 500 in one of Indy’s most popular triumphs.

He’d reached the summit in his traditional No. 11, on his 12th attempt, in the 2013 edition of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” His self-described “ugly mug and big nose” would be next to his dear friends Franchitti and the late Dan Wheldon on the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy.

In some respects, that was all he needed to consider the season a success. And in some respects, that really was the highlight in a year that had a couple other good moments, but not a consistent enough campaign to challenge for a championship.

Since he transitioned IndyCar in 2003 from the CART ranks, Kanaan had never finished outside the top-10 in points. Yet last year, Kanaan ended 11th, with three other podiums and only two additional top-five finishes.

It was a year where Kanaan and the KV Racing Technology team opted to focus specifically on Indianapolis, and on ovals as a whole. The results there paid dividends.

Although there wasn’t the A.J. Foyt Trophy awarded to the top oval driver, “TK” ended 2013 with the third-most oval points, 202. He trailed only countryman Helio Castroneves (215) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (209) over those six races.

Yet disconcertingly, Kanaan ranked only 18th in points from the 13 remaining road and street course races, with only 195 points scored. Break down your averages and you see how much lower that total was (33.6 points per oval race; 15 points per road and street). Kanaan was ahead of only three other full-season drivers in Tristan Vautier, Sebastian Saavedra and Ed Carpenter.

With Kanaan not ready to hang up his helmet, now age 39 as of December 31, he was seeking one last chance to move back up the IndyCar totem pole.

He got that chance in October, named as fourth driver for Chip Ganassi Racing, as the projected fourth car alongside Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball.

Of course Franchitti needed to retire due to medical advice after his Houston injuries, and thus Kanaan has been entrusted with one of IndyCar’s most successful cars, the No. 10 Target car.

It came a few years late, perhaps, but still something that ticked all the right boxes for “TK.”

“A lot of people know I almost had a history in the 10 car before Dario got there. Dario proved that seat, coming from Dan, Dario and myself,” Kanaan said in December, when the announcement was made at the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Indianapolis.

“I remember one of the toughest times this year when Dario was in my house in Florida doing all the tests to see if he was going to be able to drive it,” he added. “I didn’t know how to talk to my best friend, when he broke the news to me.

“He looked at me in the face and said, ‘You know, it would be really cool if you could drive the Target car and replace me. I think it’s going to make it easier on my retirement.’”

And while Kanaan being in the 10 will ease Franchitti’s pain of not being able to race once again, and go for his own shot at a fourth ’500 win, Kanaan has a big responsibility to go with his big opportunity.

His qualifying and Franchitti’s was similar in overall stats in 2013; Kanaan ended the year with an 11.2 average to Franchitti’s 11.3.

But Franchitti had four pole positions, all on road and street courses, while Kanaan did not have the same level of success on those circuits. He made the Firestone Fast Six twice, but had only two other top-10 starts on road and street courses.

Kanaan will work with Chris Simmons as his engineer on the No. 10 Chevrolet, although his longtime engineer Eric Cowdin also comes over from KV and will engineer Ryan Briscoe’s No. 8 entry.

He and Simmons do have a past history at Andretti Green Racing in 2003. Kanaan told MotorSportsTalk in January he’s optimistic they can gel rather quickly.

“That makes it a lot easier,” he admitted. “Eric has worked with Ryan before. It’s all there, the confidence is there, and we know each other. There’s no adapting issues; it’s just more me getting used to the setup.”

Kanaan, like Briscoe, has experience with Chevrolet’s twin-turbo specification and that should be a benefit as the Ganassi team switches from Honda in 2014.

But really for Kanaan, his 2014 is going to be about recapturing the form that saw him in title contention every year for Andretti, and upping his qualifying game a bit on road and street courses.

He remains one of IndyCar’s best on ovals, and best outright racers.

Latest Posts
  1. Jeff Gordon would love to return to Saturday Night Live — and he wants to bring Ricky Funck with him (video)

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:59 PM EDT

    (Photo courtesy NBC/Saturday Night Live) (Photo courtesy NBC/Saturday Night Live)

    Jeff Gordon said Friday he wants to return to host Saturday Night Live for a second time — and he wants to reprise the hysterical “Ricky Funck” character.

  2. Kevin Harvick facing long climb from 33rd on grid Sunday at Martinsville

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:37 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    A loose car and two brushes with the wall has put Kevin Harvick in a deep hole at the start of Sunday’s Eliminator Round opener.

  3. 2-for-1: Jamie McMurray wins Martinsville pole, sets track record

    Oct 24, 2014, 6:06 PM EDT

    (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images) Getty Images

    If racing at Martinsville Speedway was like buying an ice cream cone, Jamie McMurray double-dipped during Friday’s Sprint Cup qualifying, earning the pole and setting a new track speed record (99.905 mph) in the process.

  4. Ryan Blaney, “Bubba” Wallace top Truck Series practices at Martinsville

    Oct 24, 2014, 5:19 PM EDT

    Kroger 200 - Practice Getty Images

    Both Blaney and Wallace are within 30 points of championship leader Matt Crafton going into tomorrow’s Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville.

  5. Denny Hamlin raring to go for Chase’s Eliminator Round

    Oct 24, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    A fifth win at Martinsville would put Hamlin into the Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead.

  6. Danica Patrick says she’s “open-minded” about crew chief swap

    Oct 24, 2014, 3:25 PM EDT

    Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon AP

    Danica, who will swap CCs with teammate Kurt Busch starting next week at Texas, says she’s looking forward to working with the engineering-based Daniel Knost.

  7. PWC officially confirms GT/GTS split races

    Oct 24, 2014, 2:15 PM EDT

    Photo: Pirelli World Challenge Photo: Pirelli World Challenge

    GT/GTS races confirmed for split in 2015 by the Pirelli World Challenge series.

  8. Jeff Gordon fastest in first Martinsville Sprint Cup practice

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:40 PM EDT

    Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 - Practice Getty Images

    Gordon leads group of four Chasers in Top 5 speeds; all 8 remaining Chasers within Top 15.

  9. Lotus to evaluate new nose design in Austin

    Oct 24, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Italy Getty Images

    Formula 1’s new technical regulations prompted Lotus to use a twin-tusk nose for 2014, but this could be scrapped for next season.

  10. Caterham given dispensation to miss Austin and Brazil

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:50 PM EDT

    Caterham Getty Images

    Bernie Ecclestone allows the team to miss the next two races as it searches for a buyer.

  11. Lotus close to confirming Romain Grosjean for 2015

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    Deputy team boss Federico Gastaldi says the team is close to finalizing its drive line-up, with Grosjean in pole position for the seat.

  12. Matt Kenseth looking for “career highlight” win this weekend at Martinsville

    Oct 24, 2014, 12:07 PM EDT

    GEICO 500 - Qualifying Getty Images

    A win for Kenseth this Sunday would also put him into the Sprint Cup Championship Race at Homestead next month.

  13. Emerson Fittipaldi to be in attendance at Austin for fan event

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:45 AM EDT

    2013 Laureus World Sports Awards Nominations Getty Images

    Two-time Formula One World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi will make an appearance at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas next week as part of a COTA fan experience.

  14. Ricciardo: United States GP my favorite race of the season

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Russia - Previews Getty Images

    Ricciardo full of praise for Austin and the Circuit of the Americas ahead of next weekend’s race.

  15. The man behind the sculptures: William Behrends’ presence endures for Borg-Warner Trophy, and Giants legends

    Oct 24, 2014, 11:09 AM EDT

    Photos courtesy Steve Shunck Photos courtesy Steve Shunck

    Statues outside AT&T Park and the faces on the Borg-Warner Trophy share a common thread, in sculptor William Behrends.

  16. Schumacher’s doctor notes progress, but calls for patience

    Oct 24, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT

    File photo of Schumacher looking on during the qualifying session for the Italian F1 Grand Prix race at the Monza racetrack in Monza Reuters

    Dr. Jean-Francois Payen says that he has noticed some progress in Schumacher’s recovery.

  17. Esteban Ocon enjoys ‘exceptional’ F1 test for Lotus

    Oct 24, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT

    © Lotus F1 Team © Lotus F1 Team

    Sauber also complete a test in Spain with Adderly Fong and Roy Nissany.

  18. Caterham the latest team to fall foul of the Leafield ‘curse’

    Oct 24, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT

    Spanish Formula One Grand Prix: Qualifying Getty Images

    Just like Arrows and Super Aguri before it, Caterham is on its last legs. However, it is going out in far less dignified fashion.

  19. Administrator takes over running of Caterham F1 Team

    Oct 24, 2014, 7:26 AM EDT

    AUTO-PRIX-F1-BELGIUM-SPA-PRACTICE Getty Images

    Finnbarr O’Connell is now in charge at Leafield as the team prepares for a race against time to make the United States GP in Austin next weekend.

Video from NASCAR America

Remembering the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches
  1. K. Busch (1961)
  2. R. Preece (1809)
  3. R. Newman (1381)
  4. M. Kenseth (1370)
  5. B. Keselowski (1314)
  1. W. Pitkat (1294)
  2. L. Cassill (1269)
  3. D. Coby (1235)
  4. K. Kahne (1132)
  5. R. Rovelo (1113)