TUSC: Friday Roar News and Notes (UPDATED)

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Several signings have been officially announced yesterday and today for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Here’s a quick roundup:

  • Sage Karam’s tease of a “Christmas gift” came to fruition on Friday with the news the Firestone Indy Lights champion will co-drive the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototype. Ganassi’s longtime NASCAR driver, Jamie McMurray, is the fourth driver to round out the lineup alongside full-season drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
  • The second CGR car may be the better overall endurance lineup, with two of Ganassi’s full-season IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan joining new NASCAR recruit Kyle Larson and Dario Franchitti’s younger brother Marino in the No. 02 car. Larson and Karam will each be making their 24-hour race debuts.
  • As we hinted yesterday, 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will return to SRT Motorsports for endurance races with Rob Bell the second endurance driver in the GTLM class SRT Viper GTS-Rs. Hunter-Reay joins full-season drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens in the No. 91, with Bell alongside Kuno Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 93.
  • Alex Brundle has officially been confirmed in Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s No. 6 ORECA 03 Nissan alongside Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr. Tom Dyer joins the trio for the test. Additionally, the Pickett team has become an official partner with Nissan, and drivers from the Nismo Global Driver Exchange Program will race at further TUDOR Championship endurance races.
  • Per Sportscar365, John Martin will join the Frisselle brothers/Stefan Johansson/Fabien Giroix lineup in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP for Daytona, and IMSA Prototype Lites champion Sean Rayhall will step up to a full season effort in the No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports PC car.

Here’s a list of pre-new year driver and team combinations, and a link to the Roar entry list. Meanwhile in series announcements, Tully’s Coffee has been announced as Official Coffee of the TUDOR Championship & a Proud Partner of IMSA.

Tully’s was a sponsor for the then-called Dempsey Del Piero Racing team in 2013 with proposed investment from Michael Avenatti, but Avenatti did not drive another race for the team after Monterey in May. Avenatti has resurfaced with the new GB Autosport team, which fields the No. 81 Porsche 911 GT America in the GT Daytona class, with co-drivers Damien Faulkner, Bob Faieta and Patrick Huisman.

Times from this morning’s first session are linked here, via IMSAtiming.com.

This post will be updated as further announcements roll in.

IndyCar’s revised schedule gives Tony Kanaan an extra race in 2020

INDYCAR Photo by Joe Skibinski
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Tony Kanaan got a bit of good news when the latest revised NTT IndyCar Series schedule was released Monday.

Kanaan’s “Ironman Streak” of 317 consecutive starts would have concluded with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 15. That race was postponed, and the races that followed have been canceled or rescheduled later in the year. The season tentatively is scheduled to start June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is the reason for the tentative nature of this year’s 2020 NTT IndyCar Series schedule.

Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, started the season with a limited schedule for A.J. Foyt Racing in the No. 14 Chevrolet. That schedule included all five oval races, including the 104th Indianapolis 500.

A silver lining for Kanaan is that this year’s trip to Iowa Speedway will be a doubleheader, instead of a single oval contest. His schedule has grown from five to six races for 2020, should the season start on time with the June 6 contest at Texas Motor Speedway and the additional race at Iowa.

“I’m really happy that IndyCar has been very proactive about the schedule and keeping us posted with the plans,” Kanaan told NBCSports.com Tuesday afternoon from his home in Indianapolis. “I’m double happy that now with Iowa being a doubleheader, I’m doing six races instead of five.”

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Kanaan’s “Last Lap” is something that many fans and competitors in IndyCar want to celebrate. He has been a fierce foe on the track but also a valued friend outside the car to many of his fellow racers.

He also has been quite popular with fans and likely is the most popular Indianapolis 500 driver of his generation.

Scott Dixon was Kanaan’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2013-17. At one time, they were foes but eventually became friends.

“I hope it’s not T.K.’s last 500,” Dixon told NBCSports.com. “I was hoping T.K. would get a full season. That has changed. His first race of what was going to his regular season was going to be the 500. Hopefully, that plays out.

“You have to look at T.K. for who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has done for the sport. He has been massive for the Indianapolis 500, for the city of Indianapolis to the whole culture of the sport. He is a legend of the sport.

“We had our differences early in our career and had problems in 2002 and 2003 and 2004 when we were battling for championships. We fought for race wins and championships in the 2000s. I’ve been on both sides, where he was fighting against me in a championship or where he was fighting with me to go for a championship. He is a hell of a competitor; a fantastic person.

“I hope it’s not his last, but if it is, I hope it’s an extremely successful one for him this season.”

Even before Kanaan joined Chip Ganassi Racing, Dixon admitted he couldn’t help but be drawn to Kanaan’s personality.

“T.K. is a very likable person,” Dixon said. “You just have to go to dinner with the guy once, and you understand why that is. The ups and downs were a competitive scenario where he was helping you for a win or helping someone else for a win. There was never a dislike or distrust. We always got along very well.

“We are very tight right now and really close. He is a funny-ass dude. He has always been a really good friend for me, that’s for sure.”

Back in 2003 when both had come to the old Indy Racing League after beginning their careers in CART, the two drivers were racing hard for the lead at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan on April 13, 2003. They were involved in a hard crash in Turn 2 that left Kanaan broken up with injuries. IRL officials penalized Dixon for “aggressive driving.” Dixon had to sit out the first three days of practice for the next race – the 2003 Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan recovered in time and did not miss any racing. He started second and finished third in that year’s Indy 500.

“We were racing hard and going for the win,” Dixon recalled of the Motegi race. “It was a crucial part of the season. Everybody has to be aggressive. I respect Tony for that. He was not letting up. That is what I always saw with Tony, how hard the guy will push. He will go to the absolute limit, and that is why he was inspiring and why he was a successful driver.

“Those moments are blips. You might not talk to the guy for a week, but then you are back on track. T.K. is very close with our family and we are with his.”

This season, because of highly unusual circumstances, T.K.’s IndyCar career will last for one more race than previously scheduled.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500