Tony Kanaan ‘comfortable’ with aero package at Texas Motor Speedway


It’s been 12 years since Tony Kanaan’s first actual race at Texas Motor Speedway, in the 2003 Bombardier 500. The 40-year-old Brazilian driver really only recalls one thing about it.

“It was such close racing, I remember you didn’t know who was going to win that race until the last lap,” Kanaan told MotorSportsTalk in a phone interview.

Kanaan, then driving for what was Andretti Green Racing, doesn’t even remember that he finished second to Al Unser Jr. by .081 seconds.

A lot has changed with the way the Verizon IndyCar Series races at the 1.5-mile track in Fort Worth. The most obvious difference is the reduction of the closer pack racing that defined races at the track until just a few years ago.

The field is now more stretched out and Kanaan is fine with that, even though his lone win at TMS came in the pack racing days back in 2004.

“I would say (I prefer) a little bit stretched out, especially back in the day you remember we had nasty wrecks with Kenny Brack and Tomas Scheckter,” Kanaan said.

“That was definitely a consequence of pack racing. I would say a little more stretched out, but that doesn’t mean the race isn’t as intense or as competitive, it’s a little bit different.”

A new wrinkle to the racing at TMS will be introduced this weekend with a new aero package, one that will be different from the one used during the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. INDYCAR is yet to define the specifics, but Kanaan was involved with a very early test of the aero kit.

“I did, actually at the end of last year and I’m pretty comfortable,” Kanaan said. “I think a lot of people made a big fuss about a couple of things (at Indianapolis). They were four completely (different) incidents. I would say I’m comfortable we’re going to put on a good show and a good race.”

Kanaan had more than 40 oval starts in CART under his belt from 1998 through 2002 before he made his first oval start as a full-time member of IndyCar (then IRL) in Homestead, 2003.

He won the second race of that season at Phoenix International Raceway, which was his first win for AGR, and second overall after edging Juan Pablo Montoya at Michigan in 1999 in CART, which was his first career win.

After having previously learned the ropes during two years in Indy Lights, Kanaan said ovals weren’t his cup of tea at first.

“I thought you Americans were crazy to do that kind of stuff. Then I got used to it, I guess,” Kanaan said.

All but two of Kanaan’s 17 career wins have come on ovals, including two in a row at Phoenix in 2003 and 2004.

“I became as crazy as you guys.”

Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”