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As he rolls into year 20 in IndyCar, Tony Kanaan not slowing down

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The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season marks Tony Kanaan’s 20th IndyCar competition, but don’t think that the 42-year-old native of Brazil has lost anything at his age. As Kanaan put it, he hasn’t lost anything.

“In my mind, I’m still very young,” the 42-year-old quipped during a roundtable interview at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “I take care of myself a lot. I think I’m still in the game. I think I still I had a decent season last year, despite not getting a win.”

And so long as he still has the energy and stamina, Kanaan has no intentions disappearing into the sunset.

“As long as I feel this way, I’m going to keep going. So, how I feel: I feel great! We’re raising the bar, between some guys in IndyCar and some guys in NASCAR, with how much we do nowadays to keep ourselves in shape.”

Still, things haven’t gotten any easier for the former IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner. Outside of the obvious wear and tear that age inflicts on the human body, Kanaan is balancing his family life with his racing life. As he explained, his wife Lauren helps ensure he stays the course.

“She knows exactly what it takes,” he said of Lauren, who has worked on IndyCar’s media side previously. “So, she takes a lot of the sacrifices: the not-sleeping nights where she stays awake and I get to sleep because I have to wake up and train in the morning. The house runs like a race weekend now. We have a schedule and I have my things that I have to care of between when I schedule my exercises. The priority at home is still racing, which is great that she understands that.”

One source of motivation that drives Kanaan to remain competitive is the team around him. Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the premier teams in motorsports and has been a front runner in IndyCar for two decades. Yet, while Kanaan acknowledged the pressure and joy he experiences driving for such a storied outfit, he also it’s influence should not be overstated.

“To be honest, people have a misconception of that. We can’t forget how fun it was when I was in a little team (with KVSH Racing). Me, Jimmy, ‘Sulli,’ KK, and all those guys: it was fun! We won the biggest race in the world,” he said of the time with the Jimmy Vasser-led program.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 26: Tony Kanaan of Brazil, driver of the Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Racing Chevrolet, celebrates as he races towards the start/finish line to take the checkered flag and win the IZOD IndyCar Series 97th running of the Indianpolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 26, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The longevity of his career means Kanaan has amassed some impressive numbers. He has one championship (2004), one Indy 500 win (2013), 17 career wins, and 76 podiums. The stat that impresses him the most, though: 265 consecutive starts, the longest streak in IndyCar history.

“The consecutive races (streak) is kind of cool actually and every race that goes by, the farther away I get (from being beaten). The funny part was the guy I had to beat for that was Jimmy Vasser and I was racing for Jimmy at the time. He almost threatened not to let me start!” he laughed.

To commemorate his 20th IndyCar season, Kanaan is calling the year “TK20,” with planned activation including parties, events, special gear, digital content, and more. “With the TK20 launching, my idea was to enjoy every bit of it this year. ‘Enjoy’ meaning taking more time to spend with the fans, which I kind of do it anyway, and looking at things differently outside the race car,” Kanaan said of the initiative, which will run the length of the 2017 season.

The IndyCar star also understands that a career like his cannot exist without someone taking a chance on you at the very beginning. For Kanaan, that someone was Steve Horne, former owner of Tasman Racing, with whom Kanaan and Helio Castroneves competed during their Indy Lights days.

“Without Steve, we wouldn’t be anywhere,” he said of Horne’s influence. “It was a combination of Philip Morris in Brazil and him, but he was the one who had a good team that picked us. We went to a test and it was ten guys and he hand-picked me and Helio out of those ten guys and gave us the opportunity. Without him, I definitely wouldn’t be here.”

Though Kanaan admits he is in the twilight of his IndyCar career, he would not elaborate on whether or not 2017 is his last year as a full-time IndyCar driver. However, he did mention he intends to keep racing, even when his full-time IndyCar career ends.

“I would love to look around and do the IMSA program and do Le Mans,” he said. “Winning (the Rolex 24) was great. The 500 was great, and the championship. But now, I think I want to have the opportunity to do Le Mans. So, some IMSA, maybe WEC, but I’d probably stay around sports cars and maybe do the 500 once a year, that would be ideal.”

MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Sunday times and notebook

Thompson (90, Exclusive) and Hoogenboom (78, BN) in Pro Mazda. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.

Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.

COMBINED TIMES

INDY LIGHTS (Best Session)Full Results

Jamin. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 5-Nico Jamin, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:15.7173 (Session 2)
2. 98-Colton Herta, Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, 1:15.7808 (Session 8)
3. 23-Victor Franzoni, Juncos Racing, 1:15.7953 (Session 8)
4. 3-Pato O’Ward, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.0900 (Session 5)
5. 4-Rinus Veekay, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:16.1419 (Session 5)
6. 31-Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:16.1585 (Session 8)
7. 31-Nicolas Dapero, Juncos Racing, 1:16.2491 (Session 4)
8. 48-Ryan Norman, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.3285 (Session 4)
9. 27-Anthony Martin, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.5185 (Session 4)
10. 2-TJ Fischer, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.8124 (Session 5)
11. 21-Heamin Choi, Juncos Racing, 1:18.1931 (Session 5)

PRO MAZDA (Best Session); Full Results 

Askew. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 8-Oliver Askew, Cape Motorsports, 1:19.8142 (Session 5)
2. 79-David Malukas, BN Racing, 1:19.9394 (Session 5)
3. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:19.9815 (Session 5)
4. 1-Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:20.0236 (Session 2)
5. 3-Robert Megennis, Juncos Racing, 1:20.1268 (Session 4)
6. 81-Kaylen Frederick, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.1928 (Session 5)
7. 18-Calvin Ming, Pabst Racing, 1:20.2141 (Session 5)
8. 2-Sting Ray Robb, Juncos Racing, 1:20.6289 (Session 5)
9. 91-Nikita Lastochkin, Exclusive Autosport, 1:20.7001 (Session 2)
10. 80-Kris Wright, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.9930 (Session 4)
11. 82-Aaron Telitz, Team Pelfrey, 1:21.2144 (Session 8)
12. 78-Leonard Hoogenboom, BN Racing, 1:21.3713 (Session 8)

USF2000 (Best Session); Full Results

Keane ended head of queue in USF2000. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

1. 36-Darren Keane, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.1424 (Session 5)
2. 22-Andres Gutierrez, Pabst Racing, 1:25.5618 (Session 3)
3. 27-Callan O’Keefe, BN Racing, 1:25.6295 (Session 2)
4. 21-Hunter McElrea, Pabst Racing, 1:25.7021 (Session 5)
5. 31-Rasmus Lindh, Team BENIK, 1:25.7791 (Session 5)
6. 81-Jacob Loomis, Team Pelfrey, 1:25.8514 (Session 5)
7. 90-Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:25.8743 (Session 2)
8. 23-Lucas Kohl, Pabst Racing, 1:25.9792 (Session 6)
9. 37-David Osborne, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.9996 (Session 8)
10. 20-Aaron Telitz, RJB Motorsports, 1:26.0042 (Session 6)
11. 80-Michael D’Orlando, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.2295 (Session 8)
12. 37-Jake Craig, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.2452 (Session 4)
13. 25-Elliott Finlayson, BN Racing, 1:26.3668 (Session 8)
14. 32-Jaden Conwright, Team BENIK, 1:26.4557 (Session 2)
15. 38-Max Peichel, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.5058 (Session 2)
16. 33-Myles Rowe, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.6004 (Session 8)
17. 90-Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:26.6460 (Session 5)
18. 82-David Osborne, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.6824 (Session 2)
19. 34-Sabre Cook, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.9362 (Session 6)
20. 38-Oscar DeLuzuriaga, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:27.7455 (Session 8)
21. 92-Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:27.7750 (Session 3)
22. 24-Zoey Edenholm, BN Racing, 1:28.5449 (Session 8)
23. 93-Jayson Clunie, Exclusive Autosport, No Time

NOTES

Old USF2000 teammates Jamin and Telitz share a high-five. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
  • There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
  • The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
  • Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
  • Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
  • Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
Veekay. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.

Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.