Tony Kanaan keeps coming back to the Indianapolis 500 for many reasons, a love for his family and the appreciation he has for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 17-time NTT IndyCar Series race winner enters the Indy 500 for the 21st time. After a career that spans over two decades, which includes a series championship in 2004 and a Borg-Warner Trophy in 2013, there is still some left on the table.
Not being in competition on a full-time basis since 2019, Kanaan has maintained his ability to be race-ready every season. He signed on for oval-only schedules with AJ Foyt Racing in 2020 and Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021.
This season he returns for a one-race deal, making it a sixth ‘500’ start with CGR.
“I always try to stay in shape,” he said. “So people don’t say, ‘Oh look at him, he’s old, grey hair, gained a lot of weight’ this and that. This place keeps me alive, keeps me wanting to come back. I wake up every morning thinking about it, I drive by it pretty much everyday now that I live here. What makes me want more, is just to become more and more part of the history.
“Inspire kids that are like me, wondering if I would ever be here. Inspires me nowadays that my kids really understand what this place means… I’m probably driving more for them than myself at this point. I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do, I’m in a really good place in life. Having them on the podium, have them experience that with me will probably be the greatest thing.”
Once a driver heads into their 40s there is always the question that looms about how much longer will they be competing for?
Getting shifted out of consistent racing still left fuel in the tank and Kanaan continued the oval runs, which is where 15 of his 17 careers victories come from. However, at 47 years young he still does not want to quit open-wheel racing after this weekend.
“I try to put a stop a couple years ago,” said Kanaan. “Then a guy called Jimmie Johnson called me. So the real answer is, I don’t know. Because obviously, let’s face it, it’s not going to be just up to me, Helio (Castroneves, 47) said he can do that until 55, so do I, but are we going to have this opportunity.
“Is it going to be a time that we won’t get those anymore? Next year will be my 25th year in IndyCar, at least I would do one race. So if I could have a race to do it would to do the 500 more time. It would be my 25th year with the perfect scenario silver car, 25 years. It would be it for Tony Kanaan racing in IndyCar, for real.
“I don’t see myself doing a full season anymore. So if that happens I’ll be extremely happy, but if it doesn’t I totally understand and I can’t be bitter about it.”
Kanaan is on the right of side of time when it comes to laps on the track this month in practice sessions. He joined four of his five teammates as Fast Six competitors in qualifying and the No. 1 team topped final practice on Friday for Carb Day.
Regardless of racing at the Brickyard a previous 20 times, Kanaan doesn’t find the extra talk that the organization receives very helpful towards his efforts for success.
“Look, everyone that talks to me,” Kanaan said. “Guys, you guys (Chip Ganassi Racing), guys, you guys. That kind of attention I really don’t like, that’s an extra pressure know the expectation is there. Now if we don’t win, I mean if you don’t win the 500, you’re already a loser. But let alone when you’re expect it to win. So in 2013 nobody talked about me, then everybody talked about me. It comes with the territory, but we have a big job to do on Sunday and Chip gave us everything until now. Like he told us, it’s up to you guys.”