Tony Kanaan has long been one of the classiest drivers in the IndyCar world.
He proved that once again – as well as being a man of his word – recently.
Kanaan was slated to speak last Thursday, Oct. 13, to the Boys and Girls Club of Wayne County, Indiana. Among topics he was slated to talk about in the fundraising event were life lessons and the importance of keeping your word/promise.
But Kanaan also had to take part in a Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone tire test at the same time at Gateway Motorsports Park, nearly 300 miles away from the B&GC event in Richmond, Indiana.
Even though he agreed to speak at the club meeting several months ago, Kanaan could easily have simply cancelled. But he went the extra distance by reaching out to former IndyCar driver and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk to substitute for him.
Luyendyk had to travel all the way from his home in Phoenix, but was glad to fill in for Kanaan.
B&GC executive director Bruce Daggy was happy that Luyendyk stepped up, but also “I was sad we weren’t going to have Tony here,” Daggy told IndyCar.com. “We had invested in it.”
Indeed, Kanaan’s appearance had been heavily promoted, including posted on nearly 20 billboards in and around the Richmond area.
Even with Luyendyk as his fill-in, Kanaan still felt bad about cancelling.
“I hate to make commitments I can’t fulfill,” Kanaan told IndyCar.com. “I put myself in their shoes. If I was coming to an event to see a person and they didn’t show, I would understand, but I would feel bad. So, I didn’t want to let anybody down, especially in Indiana.”
That’s when the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series champion hatched a plan. Close friend and fellow driver Scott Dixon got on board by chartering a private plane to fly Kanaan from St. Louis to Richmond as soon as the tire test concluded at 6 pm ET.
When the plane landed about an hour later, Kanaan was given a police escort to Richmond High School, where the event had been moved to accommodate the large crowd when it was announced Kanaan would be the featured speaker.
“I just felt that there is always a way and we would make it happen,” Kanaan said, even though he arrived close to the event’s scheduled conclusion. Instead, his arrival extended the event, to the glee of those in the audience.
“The guy chartered a plane,” Daggy said. “That tells me he is a real man of character.”
Added Kanaan, “Getting me here was everybody’s effort. I had a blast. It was worth it.”