In the wake of the death of IndyCar driver Justin Wilson on Aug. 24, one of the most visible faces was Chip Ganassi Racing driver Tony Kanaan.
Kanaan was seen on NBCSN’s NASCAR America and ESPN’s SportsCenter to talk about Wilson’s life and impact on the sport.
But Kanaan and other drivers were also repeatedly about the inherent risks of the auto racing and how to make open-wheel racing safer.
Now Kanaan, who has experienced the losses of Wilson, Dan Wheldon, Ayrton Senna and “more than I care to count,” has shared his thoughts on those subjects in a piece for the Player’s Tribune titled “Why We Race.”
Here are a few highlights from the article:
Auto racing vs other sports – “In every sport, there are great risks. I understand the risks in racing are greater, but when you’re talking to an athlete who loves what he does — whether you’re a football player in a sport where brain injuries are an issue or a race car driver where there are accidents that are sometimes fatal — we don’t think about that stuff. That’s just the reality of our sport. It’s dangerous, and it’s been that way since the day they created the first race car.”
On safety – “We can’t make it 100 percent safe, and we’re okay with that. If you made it 100 percent safe and there were no limits to push and no risks to take and nothing at stake, then anybody could drive a race car. And if anybody could do my job, I wouldn’t want that job. To take away the risk in car racing would take away what it means to be a race car driver.”
Moving on – “To be honest, the first time I was able to relax and not think about Justin after his death was when I got back in the car the following weekend at Sonoma. Once I got back into the car, I could focus on racing. I’m more comfortable in the race car than anywhere else on Earth. It was that most natural thing for me to do.”
Kanaan isn’t first IndyCar driver to be a Player’s Tribune “contributor.” Former driver Dario Franchitti wrote about his life after retiring due to injuries. Graham Rahal and Charlie Kimball have also been featured.