Kanaan starts 2013 right with fourth-place effort

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Tony Kanaan battled hard and jumped seven spots to claim fourth place in today’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg — a far better outcome than the 25th-place result he was saddled with last year at St. Pete because of a battery failure.

Kanaan appeared set to battle KV Racing Technology teammate Simona de Silvestro for the podium late, but a surging Marco Andretti got by Kanaan for fourth with five laps remaining. Then, as the field headed for the white flag, Kanaan would follow Andretti past De Silvestro for his final result.

“My car was flawless while on track,” Kanaan said. “The only problem we had during the race was that I couldn’t shift into neutral during my last stop. That cost me three spots on track and made me work a bit more for this fourth place finish. I was impressed that my last set of scuffed red Firestones lasted that long and I can’t say enough about my Chevy engine.”

Kanaan also talked about his teammate’s valiant effort to hang on to third place as the laps ticked down.

“It’s unfortunate that Simona couldn’t hold on for third place,” he said. “She was running strong up front until she had no more tires. She deserved the podium.

“I guess Marco had a newer set of Firestones than both Simona and I, so it was just a matter of time for him to get by us.”

Still, between Kanaan’s fourth and De Silvestro’s eventual sixth, it was a good day overall for the KVRT crew.

“We’re very excited about the results,” team manager Steve Moore said. “We had a couple of issues in the pits, but the drivers and the crews rebounded. It’s not the end result that we wanted, but we’ll take the positives out of it and move on to the next race.”

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.