Tony Kanaan says he has ‘a plan’ for one last start in the Indy 500 next season: ‘I’m ready’

Indy 500 Tony Kanaan
Justin Casterline/Getty Images for SiriusXM

INDIANAPOLIS – It’s not up to Tony Kanaan whether he will drive in the Indy 500 again.

But if it were, he doesn’t think it’s a tough decision whether he still has what it takes in his late 40s to win the world’s biggest race.

“I cannot even say because I’m going to curse,” Kanaan, 47, said Sunday when asked if his third-place finish (his best at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since winning the 2013 Indy 500) proved he was good as he ever has been on the 2.5-mile oval. “It’s so lame that people think we’re old at 47. We can’t drive anymore. It’s crap. So, yeah, I’m ready. Ready to do it again.”

The question is whether Kanaan will have another opportunity. This was his second consecutive start with Chip Ganassi Racing, which needed a fill-in last year for Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Dallara-Honda last season and added a fifth car for Kanaan this year when Johnson changed his mind about ovals.

After initially declaring that 2020 would be his last season in IndyCar, Kanaan now is hoping to make 2023 his 22nd and final start in the Indy 500.

“I want to do one more, and next year will be my 25th year in IndyCar,” said the Brazilian, who began racing in the CART Series in 1998 and recently wrote an essay about the toll racing can take on a driver’s mental health. “Right now I have no deal, but if I can make it happen, we will call it the last one. So hopefully we have a year to figure that out. If not, this place doesn’t owe me anything. Look at the fans during the red flag, I still had the biggest cheer that they wanted it to win. I’ll be extremely grateful, but we’ll try.”

Tony Kanaan takes a moment after finishing third in the 106th Indy 500 (Bob Goshert/For IndyStar / USA TODAY Sports Network).

It briefly seemed the 106th Indy 500 might be Kanaan’s to win. IndyCar stopped the race on Lap 195 for cleanup after a crash by Johnson with teammate Marcus Ericsson in the lead.

That set up a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag with Kanaan hoping he could “pull a TK restart” with one of his patented passes on the outside at the green flag. But he was unable to maneuver his No. 1 Dallara-Honda around the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolets of runner-up Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist (whom he eventually got around for a third as Ericsson won the race).

“I think the key was when Pato saw Felix coming alongside on the other end, and he actually moved (inside) and left me, like, basically facing the wind,” Kanaan said. “I’m like, ‘Whoa, I still want to finish in the top three here.’ I knew it was over.

“I moved to the outside, gave Felix the space, and I kept it flat. Obviously I know Felix well enough, I knew he was not going to play dirty. Coming off the short chute, Pato had to take the line to go to turn two. That gave me enough draft, (but) I knew it was over.”

But is it the end of his IndyCar career? Regardless, there still will be plenty of chances this year to see the popular Kanaan, who will be racing for the second consecutive year in the Superstar Racing Experience and a stock-car series in Brazil.

“I was very emotional on the cool-down lap, talking to the team,” he said after leading six laps Sunday. “I know my days are numbered (at the Indy 500). I have a plan, like I said. I think next year will be probably, if I can make it happen, will be really the last one. As of right now, this was the last one.

“I’m doing 23 races this year, more than actually I did when I was in IndyCar. I don’t feel like I’m retiring. I know I can still drive. Of course, we have this thing that people like to talk about, age and age and age. But I think I’m in pretty good shape. I’ll keep doing it as long as the opportunity presents. Obviously to come back here, especially in the last two years with the team that I’m at, if it’s not there, I’m going to evaluate my chances. I don’t want to just be here to participate. I’ve done that plenty of times.”

The best shot probably would be with team owner Chip Ganassi, who wasn’t ruling it out Sunday.

“In his retirement we’ve made him the vice president of entertainment,” Ganassi said with a smile. “And he can drive, too, yeah. He can still win this race. You saw today with his performance. Kanaan is a veteran. He’s a wily veteran. He knows his way around this place, no question. So we’re not throwing him out yet.”

Seattle Supercross by the numbers: Three riders separated by 17 points


Three riders remain locked in a tight battle with 17 points separating the leader Cooper Webb from third-place Chase Sexton and these are only a few Supercross numbers to consider entering Seattle.

Seattle Supercross numbers
Chase Sexton made a statement in Detroit with his second win of 2023. – Feld Motor Sports

For the fifth time in 10 rounds. Sexton, Webb, and Eli Tomac shared the podium in Detroit. Between them, the trio has taken 23 podiums, leaving only seven for the remainder of the field. Jason Anderson, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia have two each with Aaron Plessinger scoring the other.

Webb and Tomac won the last four championships with two apiece in alternating years, but they were not one another’s primary rival for most of those seasons. On the average, however, the past four years show an incredible similarity with average points earned of 21.0 for Webb and 21.3 for Tomac. With five wins so far this season, Tomac (23 wins) leads Webb (19) in victories but Webb (43) edges Tomac (41) in podium finishes during this span.

Tomac has won two of the last three Seattle races and those two wins in this stadium are topped only by James Stewart. Fittingly, if Tomac gets a third win this week, he will tie Stewart for second on the all-time wins’ list. Tomac tied Ricky Carmichael for third with 48 wins at Oakland and took sole possession of that spot with his Daytona win.

Sexton still has a lot to say and after winning last week in Detroit, he is speaking up. The Supercross numbers are against him entering Seattle, however, because a points’ deficit this large after Round 10 has been erased only once. In 1983 David Bailey was 47 points behind Bob Hannah, and like Sexton he was also in third place. Bailey took the points’ lead with one race remaining.

The seven points Sexton was penalized last week for jumping in a red cross flag section in Detroit could prove extremely costly.

In fact, it has been a series of mistakes that has cost Sexton the most. In the last two weeks, he lost 10 points with a 10th-place finish to go with his penalty. Erase those, and all three riders hold their fate in their hands.

Plessinger’s heartbreak in Detroit is still fresh, but the upside of his run is that was his best of the season and could turn his fortunes around. Prior to that race, he led only seven laps in three mains. He was up front for 20 laps in Detroit with five of those being the fastest on the track.

Last week’s win by Hunter Lawrence tied him with his brother Jett Lawrence for 17th on the all-time wins’ list. With the focus shifting to 250 West for the next two rounds, Jett has a great opportunity to pull back ahead. The real test will be at the first East / West Showdown in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22.

Last Five Seattle Winners

2022: Eli Tomac
2019: Marvin Musquin
2018: Eli Tomac
2017: Marvin Musquin
2014: Ryan Villopoto

2022: Hunter Lawrence
2019: Dylan Ferrandis
2018: Aaron Plessinger
2017: Aaron Plessinger
2014: Cole Seely

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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Chase Sexton wins in Detroit, penalized seven points