Tony Kanaan is an Indianapolis 500 champion, and entering the 2014 race, that’s the one major bit of news that’s different than this time last year.
All the media events that have followed since last May 26 have cast “TK’s” elusive ‘500 victory in different spotlights.
The biggest thing about it is, it’s real, and it’s eternal.
“I feel like nobody can take it away from me,” Kanaan said during IMS media day on Thursday. “I’d run for the next 30 years here if I can. It’s a magical place. If from today until the day I retired, God knows when, if I never won here again, OK. But, in 2013, I did.”
As TK goes for the encore in 2014, there’s several different elements.
For one, he’s now in the classic red No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, albeit a car that’s now adorned in a special silver livery this week to commemorate the 25-year partnership between Target and the team. He switched from KV Racing Technology in the offseason.
He’s no longer directly working with longtime engineer Eric Cowdin, but is now with Chris Simmons, who guided Dario Franchitti to a pair of ‘500 wins in 2010 and 2012.
And Franchitti, Kanaan’s good friend, admitted to him last year that the older they get, the harder it gets.
“It never gets easier,” Kanaan said. “Because me and Dario, have been racing together for so long, you can kind of predict more or less will happen.
“You think it gets easier. But the older you get, the more nervous we got. Last year it’s just me and that conversation; Dario’s my best friend. I wouldn’t tell this to others. But I’m freaking nervous. I have a butterfly like my first go-kart race. I ask, ‘Does that happen?’ And he’s like, ‘Every year, it gets worse.’
“But that moment is the best feeling. You want to get in the car because the moment of anticipation disappears. Then it’s time to do your job.”
He’ll start 16th today, as he seeks back-to-back wins. No one has pulled off that feat since countryman Helio Castroneves, in 2001 and 2002.
Kanaan’s a definite favorite, and led Friday’s Carb Day practice.
“We worked really hard to make it up for our qualifying,” he said. “We have great people back in engineering and we showed it a bit this week.”