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.”