Less than two months ago, Tony Kanaan raced to victory in the Indianapolis 500, entering victory lane at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time and allowing him to achieve his lifetime dream. And the spoils of victory paid another dividend this week when Chip Ganassi tabbed the likable Brazilian to co-drive one of his entries in Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix at the iconic Speedway.
The Indy 500 champion will share the driving duties with skilled sports-car racer Joey Hand. Should Kanaan be fortunate enough to win the race, he will become the first driver to win two major events at Indianapolis.
It will be just a bit of a learning curve for me.
“It would mean a lot to win the race,” Kanaan said during a teleconference on Tuesday. “It took me 12 years to win the 500. To win two races at Indianapolis, I don’t know what to think yet. I know we have a competitive car, and I’m just glad to be part of it.”
The Brickyard Grand Prix marks the second Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Indianapolis, and the three-hour race completes the final round of the North American Endurance Championship for 2013. Going into the race, the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team sits in second place in points, trailing Action Express Racing by only four markers.
The Ganassi organization will field two cars with multi-time champion Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in one and Kanaan and Hand in the other. Giving the team a boost will be the new BMW engines being raced for the first time.
On the IndyCar front, Kanaan’s team, KV Racing Technology, and the Ganassi team are usually arch-rivals, but this weekend is an exception as Kanaan is substituting for Ryan Briscoe, who broke his wrist in the race at Toronto. Until today, Kanaan had never stepped foot in the Ganassi shops, and he needed a visitor’s pass to gain entry.
Although Kanaan is a seasoned veteran at Indianapolis, he has never raced on the 2.6-mile road course nor has he competed in a Daytona Prototype. To learn the intricacies of the track, he plans to rely upon his teammates for guidance and regarding the car, the team gave him four pages of instructions to digest.
“The track I know runs the opposite way,” Kanaan said. “We will take it a little bit at a time. It will be just a bit of a learning curve for me.” He watched the 2012 race live and has reviewed the videotape, to include the in-car shots, as part of his preparations. “When Scott (Pruett) gets here, I’ll sit down with him and ask a couple more questions.” He’s also talking with his engineer and others, and his advanced learning will get underway for the first time on Thursday when he drives the car.
Adding to Kanaan’s excitement is that Leo, his six-year old son, will be with him. Leo wasn’t at the Indianapolis 500, so father and son can’t wait to enjoy the experience. “My kid is on vacation with me this month, and he’s never been to Indianapolis. It will be a great weekend for me, and I can’t wait,” he commented.
Kanaan is a seasoned professional and he wouldn’t be racing in the Brickyard Grand Prix unless he thought he could succeed. And as a crowd favorite, Kanaan will bring added excitement to the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard.