Tony Kanaan writes about ‘Why we race’ for The Player’s Tribune

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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.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.