Kanaan shifts to Chris Simmons-engineered No. 10 at today’s IndyCar test

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The trophy side of Tony Kanaan’s week is out of the way, and today restarts the business side of things for the Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Kanaan is one of 11 IndyCar drivers set to test today at Sebring, 10 of whom are on hand for a Chevrolet manufacturer’s test. The others: his three CGR teammates Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball; the trio of Penske drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Will Power; Ed Carpenter’s Mike Conway; KVSH’s Sebastien Bourdais and Panther’s Carlos Huertas. A.J. Foyt’s Takuma Sato is the only Honda driver listed.

When Kanaan tested with CGR in December, he was still in the No. 8 NTT Data Chevrolet before the confirmation of Briscoe to that car, and Kanaan’s switch to the No. 10 Target car. That makes today the first time he’s officially testing with his 2014 engineer Chris Simmons, rather than longtime engineer Eric Cowdin.

But as TK explained Wednesday night, they already feel up to speed.

“In 2003, Chris was my second engineer (at Andretti Green Racing), so it was me, Eric and Chris,” Kanaan said. “I’ve known him for a while – we raced Indy Lights against each other in 96/97. I have not worked with him on IndyCar side, but in the DP race, he’s the engineer on the 02 car (at Daytona).

“That makes it a lot easier. 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.”

And next week Kanaan, Dixon, Kyle Larson and Marino Franchitti will share one of the CGR Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototypes in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Kanaan raced in a GT class Porsche last year, co-driving with longtime friend Rubens Barrichello, and welcomes the return to a prototype this time around.

“It will definitely be different … but if I had to choose, I’d rather be in the DP,” he said. “I was getting passed every three corners last year. I’d rather pass. It’s easier when you have a more powerful car to make the pass, so you don’t have to stay out of the way.

“We’re in a good spot as a team having won 5 of the last 8 there. There’s a lot of new things we introduced to the team, chassis, engine, everything. We’re very capable and just need to make it last.”

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.