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

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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.”

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Power Rankings after week 3
Malcom Stewart out for “extended duration” after knee surgery
Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
Ken Roczen urgently needed a change
Chris Blose joins Pro Circuit Kawasaki in 250 East opener
Seth Hammaker to miss Houston with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX
Chase Sexton wins Anaheim 2 in 450s; Levi Kitchen takes 250s
Results and points from Anaheim 2