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IndyCar 2017 driver review: Tony Kanaan

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. Tony Kanaan matched his car number, finishing 10th in points, but had a challenging season.

Tony Kanaan, No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

  • 2016: 7th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 2 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 37 Laps Led, 8.8 Avg. Start, 8.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 10th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 55 Laps Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish

Tony Kanaan had enjoyed three good if not spectacular seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing since moving there in 2014, and was a regular contender for race wins and podiums, but precious little went right in 2017.

This season saw Kanaan struggle to maximize results and along with it he, like others within the series, endured an inordinate amount of bad luck. Like teammate Charlie Kimball, he also had an engineer change early in the year with Eric Cowdin coming back over and Todd Malloy moving to the No. 83 car.

Contact from Mikhail Aleshin at each of the first two races cost him results there before a pair of back-to-back top-10s followed at Barber and Phoenix. After a tough Indianapolis Grand Prix, Kanaan enjoyed another solid run in the Indianapolis 500, where he perpetually shines and leads laps. Fifth wasn’t an ideal result but still proof he was in the winning picture once again. He also got a deam opportunity to debut in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Ganassi’s Ford GT program, deputizing for the injured Sebastien Bourdais.

However things in IndyCar deteriorated from June onwards. Incidents occurred with 2016 Iowa rival Alexander Rossi on two occasions, first at Texas when Rossi was squeezed in a three-wide “Ganassi sandwich,” then at Road America when Kanaan sustained a heavy accident at the Kink after claiming Rossi had blocked him even though Rossi had a front wing failure. Fortunately he was OK. He ended second at Texas but even that came after a maelstrom of drivers accusing Kanaan of rough driving, and after Kanaan got docked two laps in-race by INDYCAR Race Control – but recovered.

Contact in Turn 1 at Toronto brought out a decisive yellow flag that bit race leaders Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves and jumbled the order there. A tough end to the season saw Kanaan end 16th or worse in four of the last five races, having been parked by his team at Gateway after being several laps down. He’d spun on the pace lap there into the Turn 2 wall, but that was as much down to a dirty track at the outset. Crashing behind Josef Newgarden in the Watkins Glen pit lane exit was another rare error that seemed out of character. Pocono, where he ended fifth and enjoyed a great lead dice with Graham Rahal, was his lone second half highlight.

As ever, Kanaan was excellent on ovals – his points haul from those six races was third best in the series – but a rough patch of results in nearly every road or street race doomed his overall hopes. In the 11 road and street races, he had two top-10 finishes and an average result of 15.5. The oval average, by contrast, was 7.2.

The law of averages balanced it out and left Kanaan 10th in the standings. Like fellow 20-year Brazilian and good friend Helio Castroneves, Kanaan rarely finishes outside the top-nine in points – this was only the fifth time in his career this has happened. Four of those five have been between 10th and 12th. It felt a lost season for both Kanaan and Ganassi, and one that now sees them head their separate ways for 2018 as Kanaan heads to A.J. Foyt’s team.

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

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