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

1 Comment

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.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
0 Comments

ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”