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As he rolls into year 20 in IndyCar, Tony Kanaan not slowing down


The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season marks Tony Kanaan’s 20th IndyCar competition, but don’t think that the 42-year-old native of Brazil has lost anything at his age. As Kanaan put it, he hasn’t lost anything.

“In my mind, I’m still very young,” the 42-year-old quipped during a roundtable interview at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “I take care of myself a lot. I think I’m still in the game. I think I still I had a decent season last year, despite not getting a win.”

And so long as he still has the energy and stamina, Kanaan has no intentions disappearing into the sunset.

“As long as I feel this way, I’m going to keep going. So, how I feel: I feel great! We’re raising the bar, between some guys in IndyCar and some guys in NASCAR, with how much we do nowadays to keep ourselves in shape.”

Still, things haven’t gotten any easier for the former IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner. Outside of the obvious wear and tear that age inflicts on the human body, Kanaan is balancing his family life with his racing life. As he explained, his wife Lauren helps ensure he stays the course.

“She knows exactly what it takes,” he said of Lauren, who has worked on IndyCar’s media side previously. “So, she takes a lot of the sacrifices: the not-sleeping nights where she stays awake and I get to sleep because I have to wake up and train in the morning. The house runs like a race weekend now. We have a schedule and I have my things that I have to care of between when I schedule my exercises. The priority at home is still racing, which is great that she understands that.”

One source of motivation that drives Kanaan to remain competitive is the team around him. Chip Ganassi Racing is one of the premier teams in motorsports and has been a front runner in IndyCar for two decades. Yet, while Kanaan acknowledged the pressure and joy he experiences driving for such a storied outfit, he also it’s influence should not be overstated.

“To be honest, people have a misconception of that. We can’t forget how fun it was when I was in a little team (with KVSH Racing). Me, Jimmy, ‘Sulli,’ KK, and all those guys: it was fun! We won the biggest race in the world,” he said of the time with the Jimmy Vasser-led program.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – MAY 26: Tony Kanaan of Brazil, driver of the Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Racing Chevrolet, celebrates as he races towards the start/finish line to take the checkered flag and win the IZOD IndyCar Series 97th running of the Indianpolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 26, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The longevity of his career means Kanaan has amassed some impressive numbers. He has one championship (2004), one Indy 500 win (2013), 17 career wins, and 76 podiums. The stat that impresses him the most, though: 265 consecutive starts, the longest streak in IndyCar history.

“The consecutive races (streak) is kind of cool actually and every race that goes by, the farther away I get (from being beaten). The funny part was the guy I had to beat for that was Jimmy Vasser and I was racing for Jimmy at the time. He almost threatened not to let me start!” he laughed.

To commemorate his 20th IndyCar season, Kanaan is calling the year “TK20,” with planned activation including parties, events, special gear, digital content, and more. “With the TK20 launching, my idea was to enjoy every bit of it this year. ‘Enjoy’ meaning taking more time to spend with the fans, which I kind of do it anyway, and looking at things differently outside the race car,” Kanaan said of the initiative, which will run the length of the 2017 season.

The IndyCar star also understands that a career like his cannot exist without someone taking a chance on you at the very beginning. For Kanaan, that someone was Steve Horne, former owner of Tasman Racing, with whom Kanaan and Helio Castroneves competed during their Indy Lights days.

“Without Steve, we wouldn’t be anywhere,” he said of Horne’s influence. “It was a combination of Philip Morris in Brazil and him, but he was the one who had a good team that picked us. We went to a test and it was ten guys and he hand-picked me and Helio out of those ten guys and gave us the opportunity. Without him, I definitely wouldn’t be here.”

Though Kanaan admits he is in the twilight of his IndyCar career, he would not elaborate on whether or not 2017 is his last year as a full-time IndyCar driver. However, he did mention he intends to keep racing, even when his full-time IndyCar career ends.

“I would love to look around and do the IMSA program and do Le Mans,” he said. “Winning (the Rolex 24) was great. The 500 was great, and the championship. But now, I think I want to have the opportunity to do Le Mans. So, some IMSA, maybe WEC, but I’d probably stay around sports cars and maybe do the 500 once a year, that would be ideal.”

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”