Tony Kanaan simply wanted a chance and it nearly ended with victory in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500.
In a one-off effort for his 21st start in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” the 47-year-old Brazilian started sixth and was in the hunt for victory before finishing a stout third. The result, which came piloting the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, marked his fifth podium in the Indy 500 and best since winning it in 2013.
The narratives pushed around Kanaan throughout the month were more focused on what he still has left in the tank, and it’s safe to say that was answered with his performance Sunday.
“I still race quite a bit,” said Kanaan, who also competes in the Stock Car Pro Series in Brazil. “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 mean, 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.
“So if I have one more shot, and that is for real, one more shot, we’ll give it a go.”
If an opportunity comes next year it would mark his 22nd appearance at the Indy 500, along with his 25th in IndyCar.
“It’s not up to me,” Kanaan said. “I said it, I wanted to do it one more. Right now it’s wide open. I have one year to try to figure that out. But, yeah, I mean, even if I say next year will be the next one, you’re going to ask me that question. I might call it quits, but I still might want to come back.”
The original plan of the ‘Last Lap’ was supposed to happen in 2020, but then came COVID-19 and then empty grandstands for a delayed August running of the Indy 500 followed. For a perennial fan favorite, it was unacceptable to not share his final laps in the NTT IndyCar Series without the attendance of those that cheered and supported him.
After 200 laps in front of a full capacity crowd at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, though, the realization set it moments after taking the checkered flag.
“I’m going to make another excuse now,” Kanaan quipped.
“No, I was very emotional on the cool-down lap, talking to the team. I know my days are numbered. 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.”
In regards to that age thing many seem hung up about, it might be time to give it a rest when it comes to the 2004 IndyCar champion.
“Yeah, man, I think it’s such a… I cannot even say because I’m going to curse,” Kanaan said. “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.”
When quizzed over the possibility of returning Kanaan for another run at the 500-mile classic on Memorial Day weekend, team owner Chip Ganassi shared his stance.
“In his retirement we’ve made him the vice president of entertainment,” Ganassi said. “And he can drive, too, yeah. He can still win this race. You saw today with his performance. Led a little bit.
“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.”