Kanaan: The last three years have been about surviving

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If it wasn’t for an eleventh hour deal struck less than a week before the 2011 IndyCar season opener in St. Petersburg, Tony Kanaan might not still be racing in IndyCar today, and have had the chance to capture his elusive first Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan lost his ride with Andretti Autosport – then called Andretti Green Racing – at the end of 2010 when sponsor 7-Eleven withdrew its longtime support. Since then, Kanaan has had to chase sponsorship on his own to help keep his career alive with KV Racing Technology, which is co-owned by Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser (pictured with Kanaan).

“The past three years I’ve been working extremely hard, probably even harder than driving the car, to find the sponsorship to keep surviving,” Kanaan said in a press conference Monday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I’m not saying I’m not going to keep doing that.  I would like to have a little bit less pressure on my side, to just really concentrate about driving.”

Even this year, several reporters have discovered that Kanaan’s No. 11 entry – which has been backed by a consortium of sponsors including Hydroxycut, Mouser Electronics, Itaipava, N-O-XPLODE energy drink, HIPPINO.com among others – did not have the full support to continue for the rest of the season.

KV has added Imran Safiulla, longtime supporter of Simona de Silvestro, to its management team to help keep the team on track with de Silvestro’s second car. Additionally, KV has re-entered a partnership with James “Sully” Sullivan of SH Racing that first occurred in 2011, to help keep Kanaan’s car sponsored.

“I’m happy where I’m at,” Kanaan said of his status at KV, as he is in a contract year this year. “I’m confident that with this we can build something solid for the following year.  We’re so sketchy up until this race, we didn’t even know if we were going to do the entire year.  Now I’m pretty sure we will.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”