CHAMPCAR/CART: Kanaan on road to recovery

MONTVALE, N.J. (July 13, 2000) -- When Tony Kanaan was injured in a crash during final qualifying for the CART FedEx Championship Series race in Detroit June 17th, it marked a personal milestone for the 25-year old Brazilian pilot - one he wasn't...

MONTVALE, N.J. (July 13, 2000) -- When Tony Kanaan was injured in a crash during final qualifying for the CART FedEx Championship Series race in Detroit June 17th, it marked a personal milestone for the 25-year old Brazilian pilot - one he wasn't looking to achieve.

"I started driving go-karts when I was eight years old, and never missed a race during my whole career, until now," said Kanaan, who suffered fractured ribs and a broken left forearm in the crash. "So this was the first time in 17 years that I couldn't drive for weeks."

Kanaan, the 1997 Indy Lights Champion and the 1998 CART rookie of the year, is preparing to return to the cockpit of his Mercedes-Benz-powered Hollywood/Mo Nunn Racing Champ Car to defend his victory at the U.S. 500 at Michigan International Speedway July 23rd. With his doctor's help, Kanaan is focused on regaining peak physical condition in order to withstand the rigorous strain that Champ Car racing places on the human body.

"It's amazing how much muscle you lose in a short time," said Kanaan, who underwent surgery following the crash to repair the broken forearm.

"To strengthen my arm and bicep, I've worked up to doing three sets of 20 repetitions with 20-pound weights. I'm also doing exercises to strengthen my shoulder and my fingers. And I bought one of those stands you put your bike on to turn it into a stationary cycle. I turn on some music and pedal. Before the accident, I cycled 40-60 miles a day on the street. Since the accident, I was having trouble sleeping because I couldn't tire myself out. Now, I'm doing much better."

While cycling and weight training is helping Kanaan get back into top physical shape, the emotional lift of being behind the wheel is equally important to his recovery.

"As soon as my doctor said I could drive my street car again, I jumped in my Mercedes-Benz CLK430 and drove all over Miami," Kanaan said. "It made me feel so much better to be back in the driver's seat.

"I climbed into my race car at the shop the other day for the first time since the crash. I asked the guys to fire up the engine so I could just sit there and feel what it was like. I was so excited; it made my heart go about 200 beats per minute.

"I just can't wait to race again," Kanaan said. "I know I haven't always been in the best mood since the crash. I'm practically driving myself crazy. My girlfriend Juana has been very supportive and really patient with me these last four weeks. I'm trying to keep a positive frame of mind all the time, but I'm human too. I think she's looking forward to me being back in the car as much as I am."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Kanaan , Mo Nunn