IndyCar: Tony Kanaan breaks up Penske’s quartet with third place finish

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While attention was focused on the dual between Juan Pablo Montoya and Will Power to close the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, another driver was continuing a hot streak that started last year.

Yes, Tony Kanaan’s third-place finish wasn’t very glamorous on paper, with the Brazilian finishing 11 seconds behind winner Montoya and never really sniffing the lead.

But Kanaan can claim proud ownership of the fact it was both his and his No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team’s performance that spoiled a potential 1-2-3-4 sweep by Team Penske.

Kanaan started seventh and finished as a buffer between Montoya and Will Power up front, and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud in their fourth and fifth-place spots.

Kanaan said Penske improves every year and the addition of Montoya in 2014 only continued the trend.

“Chances are they’ll get 1-2-3-4. They’re dialed in. It’s up to us to break it up like we did today,” Kanaan said.

“We knew it would be hard to beat them … especially with four of them. We have to believe we had it. We had a couple of them. But when I saw Montoya on blacks, with how strong he was, unless a miracle happens I don’t think we’ll catch them.”

It’s Kanaan’s second-straight podium after winning the 2014 finale at Auto Club Speedway, and his seventh podium since joining Ganassi last year.

It was also the first race with the new aero kits, which resulted in a type of racing Kanaan didn’t expect, as well as multiple debris caution from clipped wings.

“The new aero kits … made the racing a lot closer, which I couldn’t believe that would happen,” Kanaan admitted. “Chances to see more pieces flying are greater. In a way it’s a good thing. We had too strong of cars. Now we have to think about what to do. It was a good weekend for us.”

Kanaan earned his third place finish during a restart he doesn’t quite remember, when the green after a restart on Lap 53.

“Sometimes you don’t remember stuff. I timed it just right and I got ahead out of Turn 1. Kind of a bit of a mess. Will took off. Then Sage (Karam) and Jack (Hawksworth) started to fight, Simon and Helio, and I had a clear view of where to go,” described Kanaan.

“By the end I knew how strong Helio was, even with that. We had a good position. I always try to take advantage on restarts.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.