Tony Kanaan on car safety, 2016 schedule and more


FORT WORTH, Texas – After he was done helping introduce Chip Ganassi Racing’s “Generation Ganassi” to members of the media at Texas Motor Speedway, Tony Kanaan was asked about the big stories surrounding the Verizon IndyCar Series in the third month of its off season.

The 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion addressed the recent test at Phoenix International Raceway as the series will return to the track in 2016, as well as IndyCar CEO Mark Miles announcing no additional safety measures would be introduced in 2016 after the death of Justin Wilson and the disparity between Chevrolet and Honda.

Below is the transcript of Kanaan’s media session.

What were your takeaways from the recent test at Phoenix?

It was a good test. The track has changed since we last raced there (in 2005). I think it’s going to be a great comeback for us. There is a market for it. I like the new IndyCar with the aero kits and I think it’s going to be a good race.

How exactly is it different? It has been reconfigured.

Turn 1 is the same, all they changed was the short chute for us. It didn’t change a lot. It’s just a little more banked. But that wasn’t a corner for us in the past. The two most important corners are exactly the same.

Thoughts on the new IndyCar schedule?

I’m happy that we extended a little bit, that’s what we were all asking. I think our season was a little short. We lost one of my favorite tracks, Milwaukee, as far as being an oval, but we gained Boston as a street course, which is a pretty good market for us. I’m pleased. I think the biggest issue was trying to lengthen the schedule so that teams could survive and keep everybody employed, so it was a positive.

Thoughts on Fontana not being on the schedule for 2016?

I think Fontana was a race every fan wanted to watch, the way it was. I think the season finale in Sonoma was extremely exciting. It’s hard to put in perspective as far as being the season finale.

Do I think Fontana should be on the schedule? Yes, as far as a superspeedway. The thing is, Fontana put in a pretty good effort to try to get people to come and watch and I think we haven’t done a good enough job to bring people there and it gets to the point where if it’s not worth it for the promoter to bring us back, we got to understand that.

Does that fall on the scheduling being in the summer?

It could be, I hear that they wanted a night race and another date that we couldn’t do. I think for sure, if it was later in the year, the way it was, I think it would have more people. But that’s my opinion.

Reaction to Mark Miles coming out and saying there wouldn’t be any significant safety additions for next year?

The car is pretty safe. The thing he meant there was everybody now is expecting us to come with some kind of canopy or something that would close the cockpit. Those things don’t happen overnight. And I would say on that matter, I am the president of the driver’s association, we’ve been working with that for more than five years. So what I think he meant by that was don’t expect us to come and say ‘Now we’ve found it,’ because it’s been an ongoing process.

So I would say, I’m OK with it. I think there are a couple of things we will change as far as trying to have the big pieces flying and we’re probably going to tether a couple, the nose cone and a couple of things we think can prevent it. But as far as big changes, I didn’t expect it either. Because Formula One has been trying for years as well and we haven’t come up with a good solution. We’ve got to be careful when you react to an accident to try and prevent what happened there (at Pocono) and you’re not going to create four more problems trying to fix one and that’s the biggest debate.

We have a safety committee that we worked together with doctors and FIA and everybody to try and improve the problem. But right now I was OK with his comments because I knew all ready what it was.

You guys had the hot hand last year at Chevrolet, Honda was pretty upset with how that went. Do you think it’s important for both sides to be able to have some measure of parity?

For sure, and I think it happens here (in NASCAR) and I think it’s going to happen in NASCAR. They had like three windows for the rules for the manufacturers to apply on their aero kits and they test both cars and they gave Honda a little bit more of a gap to try and catch up with the Chevy’s and I expect them to be probably at the start of the year stronger than they Chevy’s and then we’ll have to catch up. But I think especially nowadays with the amount of money the manufacturers put into racing that you can’t have a disparity like that because then you’re just going to send them home. Then we don’t want that. Obviously, I’m on the Chevy side. We did a much better job off the bat, but right now I think they’ve been given the opportunity to catch up.