IndyCar

Tony Kanaan on how much longer he’ll race IndyCar and what’s next

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Tony Kanaan, 44, knows he won’t be racing cars forever.

That’s a little harder to explain to his legendary team owner, A.J. Foyt, whose death-defying exploits and longevity occasionally have made him seem a racing immortal.

“I said you know ‘AJ, I’m getting old,’ ” Kanaan said with a laugh during a new episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast. “He said, ‘What do you mean? I retired when I was 58.’

“I can assure you I’m not driving until I’m 58.”

The 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner joined A.J. Foyt Racing in a multiyear deal that “I can assure you, this is my last contract in IndyCar. I’m loyal to AJ, and I will drive as long as he will provide me a car.”

Kanaan, who began racing in the CART series in 1998 and has been full time in IndyCar since moving over in 2003, just isn’t sure precisely how long that is, particularly after a solid run at last year’s Indianapolis 500, where he led 19 laps and was on track for a good finish before crashing with a flat tire.

“To be honest, I made a mistake in the past to try to put a number on (retirement),” Kanaan said. “Saying, ‘Oh, I have two more years, three more years, one more year.’ I’m in a very good place here. I have the motivation to do it. I’m pretty sure I’m still fast. I’m still extremely competitive at the Indy 500.

“When I make this team more successful, and we’re fighting for wins, that probably would be the time I said, ‘All right, my job is kind of done here, and I might go do something else.’ But if you asked me if I wanted to write the perfect end to my career in IndyCar, it’ll be at least this year and two more.”

What’s next after that? Kanaan said he has talked with NBC Sports Group broadcasters Townsend Bell, Paul Tracy and Dale Earnhardt Jr. about what the transition from driving to the booth is like. He has dabbled in some on-air work as an analyst.

“I love the broadcasts,” Kanaan said. “People keep saying I do really well. I don’t know. It’s something that the more of my friends are doing it, like Dale, PT, Townsend Bell. I’m not saying I’m going to be as good as them, but the times I’ve participated, people kind of liked it, so that would be something I’d entertain.

“Or maybe even staying here and helping A.J. to manage this team. People ask me what about sports car? If it goes according to plan, I’ll be 47 by the time I quit this. I don’t know if I’m going to be driving something else. … So yes, I’d say perfect world, three more years. Maybe a couple more just doing the 500 and broadcasting is something that interests me a lot.”

Other topics discussed during the podcast by Kanaan, who finished 15th in Sunday’s season opener at St. Petersburg:

–What it’s like driving for A.J. Foyt and how their aggressive styles are similar;

–Some offseason personnel changes at A.J. Foyt Racing, which hired Scott Harner as the team’s vice president of operations after Harner worked with Kanaan at Chip Ganassi Racing;

–How his move to Indianapolis has gone to help with team management;

–The cyclical changes he has witnessed in the IndyCar Series over the past 20 years;

–When he might be driving a 7-11 throwback paint scheme to his 2004 championship and glory days.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the embed above or by listening via Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Stitcher and Spotify.

The podcast also includes a conversation with St. Petersburg winner Josef Newgarden.

Eli Tomac wins Budds Creek, clinches 2019 championship

Vanessa O'Brien (KawasakiUSA)
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Last week Eli Tomac suffered through his worst race of the season and gave Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin a glimmer of hope were the championship was concerned.

On Lap 1 of Moto 1, Tomac did his best to dash that hope. Justin Bogle grabbed the hole shot, but Tomac swept past him immediately and surged to victory.

Moto 2 was much the same. Tomac grabbed the early lead and set his sights on earning maximum points for the weekend. By the end of Moto 2, Tomac had a 15 second lead over Jason Anderson to score his third perfect victory of the season. Tomac also scored a 1-1 at Pala and Washougal.

That was not Tomac’s only victory, however.

With two minutes remaining in Moto 2, Anderson and Marvin Musquin passed Ken Roczen.  That dropped Roczen to 54 points behind Tomac at the time and only elevated Musquin to a 50-point differential. Musquin needed one more position to be able to deny Tomac the championship for one more week, but he was 10 second behind Anderson and unable to make up the gap by the end.

“I didn’t know (I had won the championship) until the last lap,” Tomac said after the race. “I thought I needed one more spot on everyone. I’m just in complete shock right now. All we did today was put our head forward (and) put last week in the past. … Gosh what a way to finish it off. 1-1; it was so cool.”

Tomac is the first rider to win three consecutive championships since Ricky Carmichael won six in a row from 2000-2006.

In Moto 1, Tomac narrowly edged his two points’ rivals. Roczen finished second in that race with Musquin in third.

“It was so special,” Tomac said after he was handed the No. 1 plate that he will affix to his Kawasaki throughout next season. “So many things had to go our way this weekend with having a 1-1 and beating the two guys behind us in second and third (in Moto 1).

Anderson’s pass on Roczen late in Moto 2 was significant for another reason. With a 4-2, he scored a second overall to stand on the podium for the fourth time this season. In doing so, he matched his best finish from RedBud.

“For me, I’m just trying to build my base going into the next Supercross season,” Anderson said afterward. “I feel like I’m getting better.”

Finishing third in both motos was bittersweet equaled a third overall for Musquin. He climbed to second in the points with that finish and if he is able to stay there following next week’s Ironman, it will be the third straight year that he has finished behind Tomac.

Roczen faded to seventh in Moto 2 and with his 2-7 he finished fourth overall. It was a fitting end to his championship hopes because Roczen has faded at the ends of events all season long.

Zach Osborne (5-4) rounded out the top five.

450 Moto 1 Results
450 Moto 2 Results
450 Overall Results
Points Standings

It’s fair to call Shane McElrath’s 1-1 victory a surprise. Perhaps one can even go so far as to call it a shocker. Entering Budds Creek, McElrath had not stood on the podium yet this year. In fact, he has only one top-five finish that came at Spring Creek two weeks ago.

McElrath got off to an early lead in Moto 1, passing then-leader Ty Masterpool on Lap 3 and refusing to look over his shoulder. It was his first moto victory since Washougal last year and there was speculation about whether he could match that performance. If anything, McElrath looked even better in Moto 2 and he cruised to a 7.7 second lead at the checkers.

McElrath may have been the only rider who was not surprised by the performance and he summed up the drastic uptick in his post-race interview.

“One word: just perseverance,” McElrath said. “It’s been a real test of our faith this year. A real test of our strength. It’s been humbling for sure. … My results this year haven’t been what we wanted, but we just kept at it.”

With a 2-5, Adam Cianciarulo finished second overall despite a disappointing second moto.

He was much better in Moto 1, but even that race had drama. Four minutes into Moto 1, Cianciarulo rode off course and high sided on a berm. He dropped from second to fifth. He climbed into third by Lap 6, but it took the entire race before he would reclaim second.

At the end of Moto 1, Cianciarulo was optimistic about his weekend.

“I’m just doing the best I can,” Cianciarulo said on NBC Sports Gold. “I just want a good result on the day and that’s how I’m looking at it, taking it moto by moto. I’m just disappointed in how I rode there at the beginning.

“Masterpool was riding really good and I just got out of my rhythm. The track’s really slick so you can’t override it – and I really was – I just wasn’t riding good. But I’m glad I was able to calm down and take a breath, make some passes back – get to where I needed to be.

“Championship aside, I really want to do the best I can every moto. … If I leave it all out there, whether I win or lose, I can go to bed at night and sleep just fine.”

Justin Cooper ended the day with a 6-2, which was good enough for third overall. It was not good enough to keep his title hopes alive, however. Ending the day 60 points behind Cianciarulo, he has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

Dylan Ferrandis is now the only rider who can challenge Cianciarulo, but he needs to make up six points in Moto 1 at Ironman Raceway next week to keep the pressure on. Like Cianciarulo, Ferrandis’ day was not without incident. In Moto 2, Mitchell Falk got turned around early in the race and knocked Ferrandis down while he was running 11th at the time – one position behind Cianciarulo.

The two points leaders were able to slice through traffic and Ferrandis eventually prevailed over his rival, but he could manage only a fourth-place finish at the checkers. With a 4-4, he finished fourth overall.

RJ Hampshire (3-8) rounded out the top five.

In Moto 1, Masterpool led his first professional laps. He paced the field five times before McElrath overtook him. Masterpool maintained a top-three spot for the next three laps. He finished seventh in that race and 11th in Moto 2 for an eighth overall.

250 Moto 1 Results
250 Moto 2 Results
250 Overall Results
Points Standings

Moto Wins

450MX
[10] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & Pala II, Thunder Valley II, WW Ranch II, RedBud I, Washougal I & II, Budds Creek I & II)
[5] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, Unadilla I & II)
[3] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch I, The Wick I, RedBud II)
[2] Cooper Webb (Spring Creek I & II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)
[1] Zach Osborne (The Wick II)

250MX
[7] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, The Wick I, Spring Creek II, Unadilla I)
[7] Dylan Ferrandis (WW Ranch II, The Wick II, RedBud I & II, Washougal I & II, Unadilla II)
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[2] Hunter Lawrence (High Point I, Spring Creek I)
[2] Shane McElrath (Budds Creek I & II)
[1] Chase Sexton (WW Ranch I)

Next race: Ironman Raceway, Crawfordsville, IN, August 24

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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