Even though Tony Kanaan finished second, his best finish of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, he was far from happy following the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 from Texas Motor Speedway.
Being in the crosshairs in two major accidents, then getting a stop-and-hold plus 20 second penalty for blocking and avoidable contact after the second one, forced him a lap down and needed a comeback to be triggered. But multiple cautions – some of them INDYCAR mandated competition cautions that were surprise additions – brought him back into contention.
Early in the race on lap 38, he and teammate Scott Dixon went three-wide around Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, with Rossi getting pinched and crashing in turn three.
Much later, on lap 153 and again running three-wide, Kanaan drifted up into the car of James Hinchcliffe, who simultaneously had Mikhail Aleshin flanking him on his right side. The squeeze and contact between the three sent Hinchcliffe into a spin that collected Aleshin and a host of others in a pileup that caused a red flag.
“I guess I’m being blamed about everything,” Kanaan deadpanned to NBCSN’s Katie Hargitt after the incident.
“Um, I think I definitely moved a bit to the right. There’s a bump. I tried to avoid it.
“I moved up a little bit for sure. I hate to do that. That wasn’t on purpose. It’s a shame. That’s not the way I drive. We got the penalty. We paid it. We raced back. It is what it is.”
With a little bit more time to cool down, Kanaan was apologetic in the post-race press conference, as he explained further.
“There was a bump going into Turn 3 there, and I think — I guess I moved up, and I really have to apologize to (Hinchcliffe),” he lamented.
“I’m definitely going to go see him if he wants to see me or I’ll call him. But yeah, and I guess it was a close call. I moved up, and we hit. I’m really — it’s sad. I don’t do those kind of things. I race people clean, and I want people to race me clean.”
Hinchcliffe’s take on Kanaan’s role in the accident was this, to NBCSN: “He comes over… 2.5 car widths, and he drives me straight into Mikhail. We were three-wide. Either the spotter didn’t tell him, or he didn’t care. He usually doesn’t race like that. He’s so far away, right, right right, the corner’s left. It turned into more of a pack race. It took a lot of good cars out.”
Kanaan was also taken aback by the style of racing this year at the 1.5-mile oval. Due to the repaving and reconfiguration that saw banking in turns one and two reduced, he was firm in his belief ahead of the night that pack racing was out of the question. But, he quickly found out the exact opposite was true.
“Lap 6: (Tristan) Vautier passed everybody on the outside, I’m like ‘I was not expecting that.’ And then he started to clean it up there. So no, honestly, if you look at my pre-race interview, I’m like ‘No way.’ Oh, boy, I was wrong. So wrong.”
Kanaan also asserted that, while he’s a fan of the new layout and enjoys the atmosphere and fans at Texas Motor Speedway, he does not want this type of racing to be the norm on big ovals.
“It was our first race back because of the construction. We didn’t really have a lot of time to test here. Yeah, man, this is my opinion. I don’t think we should be doing this the way it is. We should be coming to Texas. The fans are great. This track is awesome. But I think we should change the format a little bit. How, I don’t know. We’ve got to figure it out,” he detailed.
Kanaan’s second-place finish does move him up to eighth in the championship on 264 points, 64 markers back of teammate Scott Dixon for the championship lead.