Dale Coyne Racing closes extra week for Illinois’ ‘Stay at Home’ order


Terry Brown, the team manager at Dale Coyne Racing, often looks out at Lake Michigan from the 43rd floor of his downtown Chicago condominium complex and tries to put the past few weeks into perspective.

Just 10 days ago, Brown was prepared to start the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season. Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan’s entry with driver Santino Ferrucci and Dale Coyne Racing’s entry with Alex Palou were ready for a promising campaign.

While gazing across the lake, Brown’s mind now wanders to other things.

“You think completely different than you did two weeks ago,” Brown told NBCSports.com in an interview Tuesday night. “I go to the grocery store, and I don’t touch anything, and I wear gloves. Everything is so foreign to you now. I take the dogs out for a walk, I wear my gloves. I put them in the pile to wash every day. And I sanitize my keys and phone with alcohol.

“Everything you can think of, you are on top of, and I still feel like I’m missing it.”

Last Friday, Dale Coyne Racing planned to reopen its shop in Plainfield, Illinois, on March 30. The race shop is off Interstate 55 (known to locals as “The Adlai Stevenson Expressway”) in Will County. It’s bordered by Naperville to the north, Aurora to the west and Chicago is to the east.

But on March 20, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a “Stay at Home” order for all Illinois residents and businesses. Only essential businesses may remain open from March 21-April 7. Those are doctors, pharmacies, grocery stores, banks and a few other vital businesses.

“We probably could work, but we elected not to on our own,” Brown said. “Now we will go to April 7 like everyone in Illinois is wishing for.

“Everyone is anxious to get back to work. We really wish we knew what the starting line was, but nobody knows that yet. If we knew when we had to be racing, we would make decisions. Right now, we don’t know that yet.

“The state governments determine when teams can return to work. It’s different in Indiana and Illinois than it is in North Carolina. I had not really considered that some teams were under different orders from that state.”

Most of the teams in the NTT IndyCar Series are based in the Indianapolis area. Those shops had closed on a voluntary basis last week, but when Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb put the state of Indiana under a “Stay at Home” Order on Monday, those shops were shut down for the next two weeks.

Team Penske is based in Mooresville, North Carolina. Currently, “Stay at Home” orders are based on a county-by-county basis. Iredell Country, which includes Mooresville, has not issued one, but Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte, begins a mandatory “Stay at Home” order Thursday morning.

Back at Dale Coyne Racing, the employees will continue to be paid during the shutdown. Engineers can continue working on projects from their computers at home.

“The engineers are still working at home, everybody is getting paid; Dale is still on board with that,” Brown said. “I’m quite proud of him. He’s a pretty good guy when it comes to that stuff. I thought a lot about his position, and he has been extremely smart. His restaurants pay a fair amount of his racing support, and they are probably breaking even at best right now.

“However, he is smart. He never borrowed any money on any of his ventures. He has put himself in a position where I think he is in as good a shape as most teams out there. I would rather be working for Dale today than almost anyone else.

“I think Dale is in pretty good condition.”

Driver Santino Ferrucci — Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Coyne is a bit of a hero to many in IndyCar. He always has operated one of the smallest teams in the series, but through the ingenuity of efficiencies, he is able to compete against the likes of Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport.

Coyne makes a lot happen with a little and has to run his race team as a business. He has some money, but he’s not Roger Penske or Chip Ganassi.

“Dale and I went to school together since kindergarten,” Brown said. “I helped him since he started racing on weekends. Two years ago, I retired from my job of 35 years to take the team manager job. I had a pretty good job, and I gave that up to help him run his race team.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dale and can’t believe he has done what he has done. There isn’t anyone more determined than him. I don’t know anyone more loyal than him. For him to say what he has been saying right now is a pretty big statement. I don’t know how he does it at times. But he can be as stubborn as he can be. Sometimes, I can’t get him to answer the phone. But there are times like today where he says, the guys are going to get paid. We are a family. We are taking care of each other. It’s a testament to his character.”

Generally, Coyne’s team works at a disadvantage. During the break, however, it has given the team time to prepare for races after the Indianapolis 500.

“In a lot of ways, it gives us a little bit of an advantage,” Brown said. “As one of the smaller groups, typically we don’t get too far into the two races from now until after the next race. Now, we are working on race setups and stuff as far down the road as we can get to in this amount of time. That should get us pretty far along. We should be in pretty good shape by the time we resume racing.

“I think all of the engineers have agreed to work at home. We will leave them at home, even when we return to work. Why risk it? They can do 90 percent of what they want to do on their computer while they are at home.”

IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway still are hoping to start the season with the 104th Indianapolis 500 on May 24. That remains the goal, but that is also dependent on how soon the United States is able to address the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and get it under control.

Driver Alex Palou — Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

“I think we will race in front of people,” Brown said. “We will do what we have to do to race in front of people. That event would be the same without the pomp and circumstances leading up to it.

“But who knows? We are in uncharted water, aren’t we?

“It’s still a wait-and-see game. I spoke with Dale and he said full speed ahead, and we will be prepared as we can when we get to Indy if we get there. We’re going to pay people. We’re going to keep them happy as best we can.

“There is no start line and no finish line here. We might have it and not realize we have it. It’s a challenge. Every decision I make today with my discussions with Dale and the crew chiefs and engineers, I’m thinking backwards in time. If we have a guy get sick two weeks from now, how do we handle it? We’re like the whole planet, only in a small little spectrum. You have to think, ‘What is the best thing for all involved?’

“It’s not easy. It’s a crazy world.”

As Brown looks out his window at Lake Michigan, he thinks about things much different, and much bigger, than racing.

“The best thing we can do as a country is to figure out how to test more people,” Brown said. “If I could test everyone on the team and found one of them ill, and the rest of them fine, then we could go back to work. It’s the same with every business and every city and every state in the country. We just don’t know who has it and the spread of it.

“The fact is, we don’t know who has it and what the potential for spread is. If we could measure that, we would know what we are up against.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Tony Kanaan at peace with IndyCar career end: ‘I’ll always be an Indianapolis 500 winner’


INDIANAPOLIS – Few drivers in Indy 500 history have been as popular as Tony Kanaan.

Throughout his career at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that began with his first Indy 500 in 2002, the fans loved his aggressiveness on the track and his engaging personality with the fans.

The Brazilian always got the loudest cheers from the fans during driver introductions before the Indy 500.

Sunday’s 107th Indianapolis 500 would be his last time to walk up the steps for driver introductions. Kanaan announced earlier this year that it would be his final race of his IndyCar career, but not the final race as a race driver.

He will continue to compete in stock cars in Brazil and in Tony Stewart’s summer series known as the “Superstar Racing Experience” – an IROC-type series that competes at legendary short tracks around the country beginning in June.

Kanaan was the extra driver at Arrow McLaren for this year’s Indy 500 joining NTT IndyCar Series regulars Pato O’Ward of Mexico, Felix Rosenqvist of Sweden, and Alexander Rossi of northern California.

He had a sporty ride, the No. 66 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet that paid homage to McLaren’s first Indianapolis 500 victory by the late Mark Donohue for Team Penske in 1972.

Because Kanaan has meant so much to the Indianapolis 500 and the NTT IndyCar Series, the 2013 Indy 500 winner was honored before the start of the race with a special video.

It featured Kanaan sitting in the Grandstand A seats writing a love letter to the fans of this great event. Kanaan narrated the video, reciting the words in the letter and it finished with the driver putting it in an envelope and leaving it at the Yard of Bricks.

Lauren Kanaan with daughter Nina before the 107th Indy 500 (Bruce Martin Photo).

Many in the huge crowd of 330,000 fans watched the video on the large screens around the speedway. On the starting grid, Kanaan’s wife, Lauren, who bears a striking resemblance to actress Kate Beckinsale, watched with their four children.

Kanaan’s wife is an Indiana girl who was a high school basketball star in Cambridge City, Indiana.

Kanaan proposed to Lauren in 2010, and after a three-year engagement, they were married in 2013 – the year he won his only Indianapolis 500.

She has been Kanaan’s rock, and this was a moment for the family to share.

After receiving an ovation and the accolades from the crowd, Kanaan walked to his car on the starting grid and exchanged hugs with people who were important in his career.

One of those was Takuma Sato’s engineer at Chip Ganassi Racing, Eric Cowdin.

Tony Kanaan shares a moment with former engineer Eric Cowdin (Bruce Martin Photo).

Kanaan and Cowdin shared a longtime relationship dating all the way back to the Andretti Green Racing days when Kanaan was a series champion in 2004. This combination stayed together when Kanaan moved to KV Racing in 2011, then Chip Ganassi Racing from 2014-2018 followed by two years at AJ Foyt Racing.

Kanaan returned to run the four oval races for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021 in the No. 48 Honda that was shared with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

In 2022, Johnson ran the full IndyCar Series schedule, and Kanaan drove the No. 1 American Legion entry to a third-place finish in his only IndyCar race of the season.

Kanaan knew that 2023 would be his last Indy 500 and properly prepared himself mentally and emotionally for his long goodbye.

But one could sense the heartfelt love, gratitude, and most of all respect for this tenacious driver in the moments leading up to the start of the race.

Tony Kanaan gets emotional during an interview after the Indy 500 (Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar/ USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

“The emotions are just there,” Kanaan said. “I cried 400 times. This guy came to hug me, and I made Rocket (IndyCar Technical Director Kevin Blanch) cry. I mean, that is something.

“Yeah, it was emotional.”

Kanaan started ninth and finished 18th in a race that was very clean for the first two thirds of the race before ending in disjointed fashion with three red flags to stop the race over the final 15 laps.

“Yellows breed yellows and when you are talking about the Indianapolis 500 and a field that is so tough to pass, that happens,” Kanaan said. “It’s the Indy 500. Come on. We’ve got to leave it out there.

“Every red flag, everybody goes, I’m going to pass everybody. It’s tough to pass. It’s the toughest field, the tightest field we ever had here. It was going to happen. We knew it was going to happen.

“I wouldn’t want it any different. We left it all out there. Everybody that was out left it out.”

At one point in the second half of the race, Kanaan passed Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin by driving through the grass on the backstretch.

“That was OK, right?” Kanaan said. “That is one thing I have not done in 22 years here. Even (team owner) Sam Schmidt came to me and said, ‘That was a good one.’

“That was a farewell move.”

On the final lap, it was Kanaan battling his boyhood friend from Brazil, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, for a mid-pack finish.

“Helio and I battling for 15th and 16th on the last lap like we’re going for the lead,” Kanaan said. “It was like, who’s playing pranks with us.

“We both went side by side on the backstretch after the checker and we saluted with each other, and I just told him actually I dropped a tear because of that, and he said, ‘I did, too.’

“We went side by side like twice. A lot of memories came to my mind, and I even said how ironic it is that we started it together and I get to battle him on the last lap of my last race.

Tony Kanaan is embraced by his wife, Lauren, after finishing 16th in the 107th Indianapolis 500 ((Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar/ USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

“It’s pretty neat. It’s a pretty cool story. He’s a great friend. My reference, a guy that I love and hate a lot throughout my career, and like he just told me — I was coming up here and he just said, who am I going to look on the time sheet when I come into the pits now, because we always said that it didn’t matter if I was — if I was 22nd and he was 23rd, my day was okay. And vice versa.

“It was a good day for me, man. What can I say? We cried on the grid.

“Not the result that we wanted. I went really aggressive on the downforce to start the race. It was wrong. Then I added downforce towards the end of the race, and it was wrong. It was just one of those days.”

After the race was over, Kanaan drove his No. 66 Honda back to the Arrow McLaren pit area and climbed out of the car to cheers of the fans that could see him. Others were focused on Josef Newgarden’s wild celebration after the Team Penske driver had won his first Indianapolis 500.

There were no tears, though, only smiles from Kanaan who closes an IndyCar career with 389 starts, 17 wins including the 2013 Indianapolis 500, 79 podiums, 13 poles, and 4,077 laps led in a 26-year career.

Kanaan came, he raced, and he raced hard.

“That’s what we did, we raced as hard as we could,” Kanaan told NBC Sports.com. “It wasn’t enough.

“The win was the only thing that mattered. If we were second or 16th, we were going to celebrate regardless.

“In a way, being 16th will stop people wondering if I’m going to come back.

“I’m ready to go. I’m ready to enjoy the time with my family, with my team and doing other things as well.”

Kanaan’s face will forever be part of the Borg-Warner Trophy as the winner of the Indianapolis 500.

“I won one and that is there, and it will always be there,” Kanaan said. “It was an awesome day.

“The way this crowd made me feel was unbelievable. I don’t regret a bit.”

Tony Kanaan hugs his son Max before the Indy 500 (Grace Hollars/IndyStar/USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

Kanaan actually announced the 2020 Indianapolis 500 would be TK’s last ride because he wanted to say goodbye to the fans.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit, the Indianapolis 500 was moved from Memorial Day Weekend to August 23 and because of COVID restrictions, fans were not allowed to attend the Indianapolis 500.

Three years later, Kanaan was finally able to say goodbye to this fans that were part of the largest crowd to see the Indianapolis 500 since the sold-out gathering for 350,000 that attended the 100th running in 2016.

“That’s it, that’s what I wanted, and I got what I wanted,” Kanaan said. “This moment was so special; I don’t want to ever spoil it again.

Tony Kanaan kisses his daughter Nina before the 107th Indy 500 (Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY Sports Images Network).

“We’ve been building and growing this series as much as we can. I’m really glad and proud that I was able to be part of building something big and this year’s race was one of the biggest ones.”

Kanaan walked off pit lane and rejoined his family. He will always be part of the glorious history of the Indianapolis 500 and fans will be talking about Tony Kanaan years from now, not by what he did, but the way he did it.

“This is what it is all about,” Kanaan said on pit lane. “Having kids, be a good person. Even if you don’t win, it’s fine if you don’t, as long as you make a difference.

“Hopefully, I made a difference in this sport.

“I will always be an IndyCar driver. I will always be an Indy 500 winner and I will always make people aware of IndyCar in the way it deserves.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

(Jenna Watson/IndyStar / USA TODAY Sports Images Network)