IndyCar: Happy 40th Birthday, Tony Kanaan

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Some people say once you turn 40 years old, you’re officially “over the hill.”

But those people clearly have never met Verizon IndyCar Series ironman Tony Kanaan, who today hits the big 4-0.

The Brazilian is now one of the sport’s most important figures. And with attributes such as a top-tier ride with Chip Ganassi Racing, a fan-friendly personality, and a tremendous devotion to physical fitness, he stands to keep that role in the years ahead.

Up to now, Kanaan’s accolades have been numerous but three in particular stand out.

There’s his 2004 series title with Andretti Green Racing (now Andretti Autosport), which saw him make history as the first driver ever to complete all possible laps in a season (3,305) en route to winning the championship.

Nine years later, Kanaan paired his series crown with a long-awaited victory in the Indianapolis 500 – a victory that ranks among the most popular in the long history of the fabled race.

And also occurring during the 2013 season was him becoming the all-time consecutive starts leader in IndyCar history. The streak now stands at 233 races, a stretch that goes all the way back to the CART race at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway in 2001.

Kanaan endured a slow start to his inaugural season with Chevy-powered Chip Ganassi Racing in 2014, but he and CGR found their rhythm during the summer.

Then, in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway this past August, Kanaan finally broke through for his first win with the team.

It was a perfect way to end the year, and with CGR now having a season’s worth of experience with the Chevy engine, one figures that Kanaan can further build upon the momentum in 2015.

But for today, all he ought to worry about is getting the biggest slice of cake. Happy Birthday, TK.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.