Tony Kanaan not worried over slow start with Ganassi

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Tony Kanaan’s first two races for Target Chip Ganassi Racing could have gone better, but the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion isn’t perturbed.

Kanaan overcame a fuel mixture issue to finish sixth in the season opener at St. Petersburg, but was one of several drivers collected in a multi-car crash at Long Beach.

As a result, the Brazilian sits 11th early on in the Verizon IndyCar Series championship, which makes its third stop of the season this weekend at Barber Motorsports Park (Sun., 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

Last night on Indianapolis’ 1070 The Fan, Kanaan told Indianapolis Star writer Curt Cavin that the slow start to 2014 isn’t because he’s still acclimating to the Ganassi camp.

“I’m not gonna sit here and say ‘Oh, I need to get used to the team, I need to learn this or learn that,'” he said on “Trackside.” “It’s just the series is extremely competitive – and when I signed up for this deal, I knew it was not going to be easy.

“If anybody thought we were gonna win every race, that’s not the case. That’s not gonna happen. [That mindset is] not counting the good guys we have against us right now.

“I’m not where I want to be in the championship right now to be honest with you, but the good thing is we have a race this weekend and we can change that.”

Still, Kanaan figured that he and the rest of the field will likely have to go through IndyCar points leader Will Power and his own TCGR teammate, Scott Dixon, at Barber.

The Aussie and the Kiwi are perennially strong in Alabama. Power has two wins at Barber (2011, 2012), while Dixon has claimed four consecutive runner-up finishes there.

Facing such stiff competition, Kanaan acknowledged that he needed to step it up in the weeks ahead, which also include the series’ first visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course and then preparations for the Indianapolis 500.

“To be honest, I think we definitely have to do a better job,” he said.  “That’s why I’m here [in Indy] this week, working with the team.

“It won’t be the first time that we have to turn our situation around. I actually work better under pressure.”

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.