INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Tony Kanaan is still getting accustomed to hearing his new title: Indianapolis 500 champion.
After dealing with so much bad luck and so many years of frustration at Indianapolis, who could blame the Brazilian driver for mistaking those words now being applied to his name?
“What?” Kanaan said.
“No. I mean, look at where I’m at. Look at the job I got by winning Indy,” Kanaan said.
What the elusive Indy victory did for Kanaan’s profile cannot be measured by money or trophies alone.
It put him on center stage, giving him a chance to tell his story to the American public and show late-night television audiences the passion and humor that turned a foreign driver into one of Indianapolis’ fan favorites. It gave him an opportunity to honor a promise he made to his 6-year-old son, Leo, by handing him the Borg-Warner Trophy. And it helped him get back to his favorite venue sooner than anyone expected, so he could chase a historic second win at Indy in a car nobody dreamed he would drive.
“I got so lucky, my kid is on vacation with me this month from Brazil. This deal came up a week ago. Coincidentally he gets to be here,” Kanaan said. “He wasn’t here at the 500. He’s all excited. He’s never been to Indianapolis. It’s a great fit.”
It could be a bit for the 38-year-old veteran, too.
Though he’s started the last 12 Indy 500s, this will mark the first time he’s crossed the yard of bricks going from left to right and the first time he’s driven on the historic track’s much newer road course. And though he’s competed in sports cars previously, he’s never competed on Brickyard 400 weekend or in this version of racing _ the Grand-Am Rolex Series.
The affiliation with Ganassi, which Kanaan says opened up because of the wrist injury to Ryan Briscoe, also has raised questions about his future in IndyCar. Next week, Kanaan officially becomes a free agent when his deal with KV Racing Technology expires and some believe Kanaan could be headed to Ganassi’s shop where he was given a guest pass this week.
“I’m in negotiations with KV right now. It’s not a secret that we need funding. We don’t have it yet at KV. Me and Jimmy (Vasser), we have an agreement until Aug. 1. I’m not going to go out there and shop around or offer myself. But after that, I need to look around,” Kanaan said. “I don’t want people to read into it because, really, there is nothing to it.”
The good news is Kanaan will have plenty of support preparing for Friday night’s race.