IndyCar: Double Sunday Toronto podium fuels TK’s recent surge

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A year ago, Sebastien Bourdais finished second in race one and third in race two in Toronto to be the second driver with two podiums in the doubleheader weekend, behind double race winner Scott Dixon.

This Sunday, it was Tony Kanaan who was the only driver to bag a pair of podiums in the same weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader. He finished third in race one, second in race two.

It’s a bit of a surprise, to be honest, given TK’s recent record on street courses. The last year he finished on the podium on street courses more than once was in 2011, when he finished third at both St. Petersburg and Baltimore driving for KV Racing Technology.

He matched that podium total in a single day today in Toronto; coupled with his third in Race 1 at Detroit, TK now has three street course podiums this season as he and the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team begins to hit its stride.

Kanaan led 325 laps in the previous two race weekends at Pocono and Iowa, coming up short on both occasions, but had by far his best weekend on a road or street course in a long time with his performance on Sunday.

The 39-year-old Brazilian put it down primarily to time, as now having had nearly a full season with Ganassi after three years with KV, Kanaan and his crew are gelling heading into the home stretch.

“I think it’s just time,” Kanaan said. “I had a big responsibility replacing Dario (Franchitti). That team was built around him. It was very unexpected, his retirement. It takes time to get to know people. It takes time to get the chemistry… Dario worked with (engineer) Chris Simmons for seven years. I worked with Eric Cowdin for 12. We found different things.  Target gives us the budget… so we need to perform. I’m not gonna say it clicked, but all those things together gives us a big improvement.”

After race one, when he finished third after starting fifth, said Kanaan’s end result was “better” but still not ultimately what they wanted.

“We knew this year we were struggling the most on the street and road courses instead of the oval, so it definitely feels good,” he said.  “I would say feels better.  Me and Dixon are putting pressure on the engineers and working closely together to make sure that’s going to happen soon.”

In race two, Kanaan survived a first lap run-in with the Turn 3 tire barrier as he stopped just shy. He moved to the back of the field but in a methodical drive, plus the call to move onto slicks in the final pit sequence, Kanaan was back in podium contention by the end of the race held in mixed conditions.

“Either I went in too deep or got hit, but I got stuck in Turn 3. The car died and I was desperate to restart,” he said, while thanking the Holmatro Safety Team for getting him going so quickly. “We did from dead last, then did a bit of a strategy. It was extremely slippery in the rain. When dry, we went for it. We just ran out of time.”

But after the near misses at Pocono and Iowa, and the would-have-been podium at Houston Race 1, Kanaan and the 10 team may not be out of time for banking a win this year. If they do, coincidentally, they’d be the 10th different winner this season – and Kanaan could well pull it off at any of the four remaining races.

Kanaan now sits eighth in points after a banner Sunday north of the border, where he banked his first two podiums in 12 career Toronto starts.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Marco Andretti

Marco Andretti
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field in 2015 with Marco Andretti, who finished ninth after another top-10 season in points.

Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 5th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 23 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 12.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 9th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 60 Laps Led, 11.5 Avg. Start, 9.1 Avg. Finish

It was a dependable, quiet but usually consistent season from Marco Andretti, who up until the final quarter of the season had actually been his father’s most reliable finisher.

Andretti didn’t necessarily have a ton of standout drives but he was usually there or thereabouts, and by the end of the day he was often at the low ends of the top-10, which earlier this year given the at-times troublesome Honda aero kit package on road and street courses was more of an accomplishment than you’d think. Three top-10 results in the first four races was proof positive of that.

As ever Andretti excelled most on the big ovals. Sixth at the Indianapolis 500 was as good as was possible given the lack of top-end speed; similarly, he probably could have emerged at the head of the field at Fontana, ending third when all was said and done.

His best result was second in the rain at Detroit race one, although coming second to teammate Carlos Munoz had to sting a little bit. Andretti had driven well that race, and was unfortunate not to be rewarded with his first win in four years.

The thing that would have been his standout stat of the year, finishing every lap, game unglued with an odd accident on home soil in Pocono. It was a shame to see because Andretti was typically good, if not great, for yet another season.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver lineup in the Verizon IndyCar Series, after the 2015 season, with eighth-placed Tony Kanaan.

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 7th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 2nd, 6 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 407 Laps Led, 9.2 Avg. Start, 9.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 8th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 3 Podiums, 6 Top-5, 10 Top-10, 213 Laps Led, 7.6 Avg Start, 9.9 Avg. Finish

You have to give TK credit. Armed with one of the best cars on the grid, Kanaan has certainly raised his game the last two years, and probably hasn’t received enough credit or enough results for some of his drives he’s put in since joining Chip Ganassi Racing after the 2013 season.

The 2015 season was no exception. All 10 of his top-10 finishes were between second and seventh, so there were plenty of times he was in win and podium contention. The other area where he improved was his qualifying. Kanaan only had two starts outside the top-12 all season, one of which occurred at Detroit race two, where the grid was set by points following a rain cancellation. Detroit was pretty much the only weekend where Kanaan didn’t figure into qualifying or the race. Blame the Taylor Swift-inspired Big Machine Records livery for that one if you want.

Accidents at the Indianapolis 500 and Pocono were costly retirements as Kanaan definitely had a shot to win both those races. But realistically you couldn’t find many other faults. Losing a sure win at Iowa due to a mechanical issue was a gutting blow. He was also unlucky to come up just shy at Fontana, and may have prevailed in a last-lap shootout.

More often that not however, Kanaan was firmly on top of his game, and reliably on par with his championship-winning teammate Scott Dixon, which was all you could ask for. It’s fitting the two of them opened the year as part of the winning lineup in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, with Kanaan then helping out matters by finishing ahead of Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, to ensure Dixon had enough points to win the title on countback.