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Indy 500 champ Kanaan sixth in first race with Ganassi camp

Mar 30, 2014, 8:17 PM EDT

Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Getty Images

A promising Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg appeared to be on tap for Target Chip Ganassi Racing newcomer Tony Kanaan after he qualified on the outside front row.

Instead, things got very difficult almost from the beginning for the Indianapolis 500 champion, when he suffered a potentially disastrous mishap in the cockpit of his No. 10 Target Chevrolet.

“Right at the fourth lap of the race, we went into a [fuel] mixture to lean the engine out and save some fuel – but the knob fell off,” Kanaan explained to ESPN. “I raced the entire race with a lot less power, so it was quite hard to keep up.”

Nonetheless, Kanaan was able to soldier on and pick up a sixth-place finish in his first race for the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champions. He also noted the big picture, with driver’s champ and new teammate Scott Dixon finishing in fourth.

“It was one of those things. It happens. But a Top-6 is not a bad start,” he said. “Both Target cars [finished] in the Top-6, and that’s great for the championship. It’s going to be a tight one, so we need to take any points that we can get.”

The lack of power appeared to show early on after Kanaan lost second on the opening lap to Ryan Hunter-Reay (who would eventually finish there behind winner Will Power). He ceded third to Power on Lap 12, then lost fourth to Helio Castroneves on Lap 18 before making his first stop on Lap 27.

When that green flag cycle ended, Kanaan would shake out in sixth position. He would stay there for much of his second stint but then fall back to seventh after another wave of green stops.

However, his pit crew would do him a solid by getting him the lost spot back on pit road during the race’s first caution (Lap 76-81). Kanaan stayed sixth for the remainder of the race, setting his fastest lap of the day on Lap 95 despite his fuel troubles.

“For all the problems that we had during the day, it was a great result,” Kanaan said. “When you have a bad day and you have problems and you finish sixth, it’s pretty good.”

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