As we noted when we talked with Tony Kanaan going into this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, he’s actually been better than the stats will have indicated in his first two seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ahead of his third season in the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, which will have its third different livery in as many years (Kanaan paid tribute to the late Greg Moore saying the new scheme reminds him of old Player’s/Forsythe Racing liveries), it’s questions of how the aero kit updates will come on board for both Chevrolet and Honda this year.
There’s also the other element that because the aero kits hadn’t debuted yet prior to last year’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, few knew how they would race. When the race happened, it was a debris-infested caution fest, but Kanaan survived it strongly as the only non-Team Penske finisher in the top five with a third place result.
“I mean it’s hard to tell how it will be for this year, because they changed again,” Kanaan told NBC Sports leading itno the season-opener on March 13.
“This year will be the new bumper parts. I think it’s easier as far as the drivers. Last year was bigger bumpers. We hit each other. I think it will be better in that matter. As far as performance, it’ll be tough to say. We’ll have to see.”
Kanaan couldn’t say too much on Chevrolet’s recent manufacturer aero kit test day at Sonoma Raceway but did note it was a “positive” day of running.
Kanaan is also waiting to see how INDYCAR assigns the downforce levels for Phoenix International Raceway, the one-mile oval where two days of testing takes place this week for the “Prix View” test, and de facto “spring training.”
“I would like more of a low (downforce) setting, but I don’t know what IndyCar’s gonna give us. It’s the million-dollar question right now,” Kanaan said.
As for his second rookie teammate in as many years, Englishman Max Chilton made a good first impression. Chilton tested at Sonoma and then participated in rookie tests at Auto Club Speedway (Feb. 13) and Sebring International Raceway’s short course (Feb. 22).
“I think he has the right attitude,” Kanaan said of Chilton. “I haven’t had a lot of time to give him an evaluation. I met him three days before, then we went to Sonoma, then Fontana.
“I always try to help the young guys out. I drove for a few laps (at Fontana) to make sure everything was OK. I watched him last year, and he won an oval race. He seems a pretty down-to-earth kid.”
While Kanaan – and friends and teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti helped to prank rookie Sage Karam with the pink “Karamo” last year – it remains to be seen what, if any, practical jokes one of IndyCar’s longest standing drivers has up his sleeve for Chilton.
“No pranks yet. But I’ll work on that,” Kanaan joked.