For Kanaan, Indy will forever be a place where he celebrated his greatest victory in 2014 after 12 consecutive years of frustrating problems and vexing near misses. He has become a semi-regular at Pacers games, has had his image engraved on the Borg-Warner Trophy, has been a prominent fixture in television and radio ads, and is one of the most popular drivers in Gasoline Alley.
“I think I fooled myself the last couple of years saying that I was OK with the fact that I might not win this race in my career, and it changed everything when I crossed that finish line,” he said. “It’s just a wonderful feeling. It fulfilled my career dream. I landed in a very good job because of it. Trying to take advantage of it again.”
At times, he’s basked in this victory lap. At other times, he feels he is trying to live up to the expectations that come with being a defending Indy champ in a revered car with a well-funded team.
Franchitti’s long shadow still looms large, too. The 41-year-old Scot won four IndyCar championships including three straight from 2009-11, and still works with the team in a consulting capacity. On Sunday, Franchitti will lead the drivers down the front straightaway as the celebrity pace-car driver, then turn his attention to watching Kanaan in the No. 10.
“To drive that car is a lot of pressure,” Kanaan said.
Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer contributed to this report.