Arrow McLaren SP will field Tony Kanaan at Indy 500 with sponsorship from NTT Data

McLaren Kanaan Indy 500
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images
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The cold war between Zak Brown and Chip Ganassi took another turn Tuesday when Arrow McLaren SP announced it had signed both a Ganassi sponsor and Tony Kanaan to drive the Indy 500.

Kanaan spent four seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing and drove a Ganassi entry in the last two Indianapolis 500s. The 2013 winner finished third this past May at Indy.

Kanaan will be sponsored by NTT Data for his 22nd Indy 500, and the technology and business solutions provider also will be the primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist for 10 races on the No. 6 Chevrolet.

NTT Data had been a Ganassi sponsor since 2013 and was the primary sponsor for 2020 champion Alex Palou, who spent most of the IndyCar season locked in a battle to move from Ganassi to McLaren in 2023.

Mediation led to a resolution in which Palou would finish the remaining year on his Ganassi contract and can test for McLaren’s Formula One team. But Palou’s sponsor is headed to McLaren early; Palou can’t drive an Indy car for McLaren before he makes his official move in 2024.

“We welcome the opportunity to partner with McLaren, a long-term and valued client, and to demonstrate how sponsorships simultaneously build awareness and enhance business-to-business relationships,” said Bob Pryor, CEO of NTT Data Services.

Brown and Ganassi have feuded for years, but the tiff reached a new height when Palou in July rebuked a Ganassi announcement that the option on his contract for 2023 had been picked up. He said he instead was moving to McLaren, which led to several civil court filings and the ultimate resolution for Palou to complete his Ganassi contract.

Also, McLaren team president Taylor Kiel left the organization after the season and is expected to be announced as a Ganassi executive as soon as his non-compete clause expires. Kiel is the stepson of longtime Ganassi managing director Mike Hull.

Kanaan, who spent four of the final six years of full-time IndyCar competition with Ganassi, is slowly moving toward retirement. His third-place finish at Indy in May made the Brazilian eager to return again in 2023 at age 48.

“I feel extremely lucky to get another shot racing in the Indy 500,” said Kanaan, who will be part of McLaren’s first four-car Indy 500 lineup alongside Rosenqvist, Pato O’Ward and 2015 winner Alexander Rossi.

“I’m excited to work with Pato, Felix and Alexander and race with the Arrow McLaren SP team. My biggest battle in last year’s race was against these three drivers so working with them and driving with them will be exciting for all of us,” Kanaan said.

Rosenqvist started his IndyCar career with Ganassi and drove the No. 10 sponsored by NTT Data for two seasons. Rosenqvist moved to McLaren ahead of the 2021 season, the first year of NTT Data’s last Ganassi contact extension, and Palou replaced Rosenqvist as the driver in the No. 10.

“I look forward to representing NTT DATA once again,” Rosenqvist said. “They’re a great partner and are committed to the series.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”