Tony Kanaan set to close IndyCar career with five-race ‘farewell tour’

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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One of the most popular drivers in IndyCar racing is set to say his final farewells this season.

Tony Kanaan will close out his illustrious IndyCar career by running the five oval races in 2020, beginning with the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24.

The 45-year-old Brazilian then will run the Saturday night races at Texas Motor Speedway (June 6), Richmond Raceway (June 27), Iowa Speedway (July 18) and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Aug. 22) to close out his final season.

The announcement was made Thursday morning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“I look back at all these years racing in IndyCar and the first thing that comes to my mind is how fortunate I’ve been to be in the top level of the sport for this long,” Kanaan said. “I walked into this sport as a 23-year-old with lots of hopes and dreams and I can say, without a doubt, that I accomplished everything I wanted.

“I’m 45 now. I have fans, wins, podiums, records, a championship and an Indy 500. I feel and know I can still do this for a long time, but like everything else in life there is also a cycle in racing. For a long time, I’ve been asked when I would retire, and my answer was always the same: The day I wake up in the morning and feel like I can’t do this anymore, that’s when I’m going to retire.

“Unfortunately, there are other things one should take into consideration when planning the future, and probably the most important one is what are the options that are available. For 2020, my best option was to race the five ovals of the IndyCar season, the sport that gave me so much and that I will always love.

“I’m not done with racing, that’s for sure. I decided that this year I would step back a bit and enjoy these five races, have time for my family and my fans, and also give back to the sponsors that always stood by me.”

Kanaan’s announcement came as his current team of A.J. Foyt Racing is experiencing sponsorship difficulties. ABC Supply Co, which has sponsored the team since 2005, made the decision to scale back their sponsorship to just one race, the Indy 500.

Longtime personal sponsors 7-Eleven, Big Machine Vodka, NTT Data and Bryant Heating and Cooling will provide sponsorship for Kanaan in the remaining four oval races of the season.

“You guys probably aren’t going to see the same car every race, but every sponsor of mine, they’ve been with me for more than a decade,” Kanaan said. “[They’re] stepping up for me to be able to do this.”

Kanaan’s IndyCar career began in 1998 with Tasman Motorsports after capturing the Indy Lights title with the team in the year prior. He achieved success early on in his career, winning CART Rookie of the Year honors later that season.

In his second season, Kanaan captured his first pole position at Long Beach and won his first race at Michigan International Speedway.

He then went on to win 16 more times in his career, including the Indianapolis 500 in 2013. Additionally, Kanaan won the 2004 NTT IndyCar Series title for Andretti Autosport.

Although Kanaan is only scheduled to race in five IndyCar events this season, he stated that he would still be in attendance at many other rounds of the 2020 season and participate in promotional events such as autograph sessions.

As for the future, Kanaan said he doesn’t know what his exact plans are just yet, but he will remain active in the racing community.

“I don’t want anybody to think I’m retiring and I’m disappearing,” Kanaan said. “First of all, I still can drive. We’ve been in talks. We’ve been in talks with IMSA and a bunch of other series. People are like, ‘So what are you doing? What are you doing next year?’ Tony Stewart is like, ‘When are you coming back to Eldora?’ Now I think I can do all those things.

“I think I will enjoy it a lot. I don’t want people to get the impression that this is it, and this is not it in IndyCar, either. But like I said, that’s all I can say right now. Hopefully we’ll surprise you guys through the year with some different stuff.”

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