IndyCar: Tony Kanaan’s ‘Last Lap’ begins at Texas Motor Speedway

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The streak lives for Tony Kanaan. At least for one more race.

With Kanaan running only ovals during his farewell IndyCar season in 2020 – which has been dubbed the “Last Lap” – his record streak of 317 consecutive Indy-car starts was to end with the season opener March 15 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Fate had other plans. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forced the postponement of St. Pete (now the season finale in October) amid the shutdown of American sports.

IndyCar has made multiple changes to its 2020 schedule since then, and as a result, Kanaan is getting an opportunity to extend his “Ironman” streak.

The 2004 NTT IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner is set for career start No. 318 on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway – driving the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet alongside the team’s new full-season driver, Charlie Kimball, in the No. 4 Chevy.

Kanaan also announced a twist Wednesday afternoon: Longtime former sponsor 7-Eleven will return on his car Saturday.

“A lot of people ask me how I coped with the delay of the season,” Kanaan said Monday in an IndyCar Zoom news conference. “To be honest, I was mentally prepared already because my first real race was going to be the [Indy] 500. My mind was already set for May.

“I only really had to delay, what, a couple of weeks from what I was originally scheduled to do. For me, I think it wasn’t as hard as for the other guys that were already in St. Pete, ready to go.”

But while his mindset is locked in, Kanaan notes that he’s been out of a race car for eight months. In fact, as of Monday, he hadn’t sat in a car fitted with the new Aeroscreen cockpit protection system.

However, he is no stranger to the wild and woolly action at Texas. Ditto for his new-slash-old teammate, Kimball: The two competed together at Chip Ganassi Racing from 2014-17.

That experience is something A.J. Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt is grateful to have on his side.

“Going into this race, it’s huge,” Foyt said. “Especially with the one-day show, everything is accelerated, and going to a big track like Texas, having a guy like Charlie sit on the pole there [in 2017], knows his way around there, and obviously TK is very good there, as well.

“It’s a little bit of peace of mind for sure. Anything can happen, but the engineering group has been working really well together. We’re really hopeful we’re going to unload and get these guys some good cars out of the box. That’s the plan.”

Speaking of Kimball, the Californian is set to revive his full-time career in the sport after making just seven starts last season with Carlin.

He’s enjoyed his unexpected free time at home with his wife, Kathleen, and their two children, Hannah and newborn son Gordon, who arrived in March. But he’s grateful to get back in the car – and to accompany Tony on his ‘last lap.’

“We’re friends off the track,” Charlie said. “We train together. He’s gotten me addicted to riding a bicycle on a computer game, but also our wives are friends, and I think our families when we can get together and the kids can play, I think they’re going to interact really well. I’m excited for his daughter Nina to spend some time with our daughter.

“And the experience – I mean, he’s taught me things and I’ve learned a lot from him about how to restart on ovals and what you can and what you should and shouldn’t do and what he still does. That experience is invaluable to me to continue to learn and get better. I just feel really honored to be his teammate during his last lap, especially when we get back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500.”

SATURDAY INDYCAR START TIMES AND TV SCHEDULE:

IndyCar practice: 1 p.m., NBC Sports Gold

IndyCar qualifying5 p.m., NBCSN, NBC Sports Gold

Countdown to Green: 7:30 p.m., NBCSN

IndyCar Genesys 3008 p.m., NBC

IndyCar postrace coverage: 10 p.m., NBCSN

Kyle Larson’s ASCOC win streak ends on wild crash in South Dakota

Kyle Larson crash
Trent Gower
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The record winning streak of Kyle Larson in the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions came to a jarring halt Sunday night with a wild crash in a heat race.

On the third lap of the second heat race at Huset Speedway in Brandon, South Dakota, Larson got high entering Turn 1 and slammed the wall. His No. 57, which had won the past seven races in the ASCOC (and its previous eight starts in the series), flipped multiple times before coming to a stop upside down on the dirt.

LARSON ON NASCAR‘I’d love an opportunity if it came’

Larson reportedly was OK after the crash, but his car was too damaged to continue, causing the driver to miss the main event. Cory Eliason scored his first ASCOC victory this season (and $20,000) by winning the 35-lap A main over Kerry Madsen before a capacity crowd.

 

The crash came while Kyle Larson was running last. He had rejoined the heat race after suffering a flat right rear tire a few minutes earlier in contact with the frontstretch wall on the second lap.

It was a disappointing end to a night that started with promise for Larson, who had set the fastest lap in time trials. It also snapped a run in which he was unbeaten from July 10 through Aug. 1 in the 410 winged sprint car circuit owned by Tony Stewart that started in 1970. Larson had 23 victories in his previous 37 starts on dirt since the beginning of June in sprint cars and USAC midget events.

He will have to wait a while to start his next streak in the ASCOC, which will take two weeks off before returning Aug. 21 at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan.

The dirt racing world will spend the next two weekends at Knoxville Raceway, which postponed its annual Knoxville Nationals but still will be playing host to a 360 Nationals event Aug. 6-8 from World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Series on Aug. 13-15.