Kanaan declares part-time 2020 IndyCar season is his “last lap”
The 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan has announced that his five-race program with AJ Foyt Racing in 2020 will be his final season in the NTT IndyCar Series – although he hasn’t ruled out Indy 500 one-offs in future years.
Kanaan will take the wheel of Foyt’s famous #14 for all five oval races in this year’s campaign, attempting to qualify for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 in May, the races at Texas Motor Speedway and Richmond Raceway in June, Iowa Speedway in July, and finally World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway in August.
Four of these are tracks on which the 45-year-old from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, has won – Indy (2013), Texas (2004), Richmond (2008), Iowa (2010) – while Gateway saw him take podiums in 2003 and last year.
Kanaan's press release stated there was a “possibility of returning for a future Indianapolis 500, but not for another partial or full NTT IndyCar Series season.”
After two seasons in Indy Lights with Tasman Motorsports which resulted in the 1997 championship, Kanaan graduated with the Steve Horne-owned team to the CART Indy car Series and a move to Forsythe Racing in ’99 yielded victory in Michigan.
Three seasons at Mo Nunn Racing saw him switch to the Indy Racing League, and in 2003 Kanaan joined what was then called Andretti Green Racing. The combo won its second race together at Phoenix, and in ’04 their pace and shocking consistency – Kanaan completed every lap of the season and finished 15 of the 16 races in the top five – inevitably led to the IndyCar title.
Kanaan remained in Michael Andretti’s squad amassing wins and poles until joining KV Racing in 2011, which ultimately led to victory in the 97th Indianapolis 500 in 2013, his 12th attempt. It was one of the most popular wins in IMS history, the crowd expressing their joy at TK removing himself from the list of Speedway’s unluckiest drivers – a roster that includes such super-talents as Ted Horne, Lloyd Ruby and Michael Andretti. The race was also memorable for being the fastest 500 in history (187.433mph) and for featuring the most number of lead changes (68 – although that only counts those at the line).
Four seasons at Chip Ganassi Racing would follow, as he replaced his buddy Dario Franchitti, whose career had been shortened by a huge crash at Houston in 2013. For the last two seasons, Kanaan has fought the good fight for a struggling Foyt team, scoring his 78th and most recent podium finish in that Gateway race last August.
In 377 career Indy car starts – second only to Mario Andretti’s 407 – Kanaan has scored 17 wins and 15 poles, and he holds the active record for most consecutive starts, a tally that stretches back to Portland in 2001.
“I look back at all these years racing in IndyCar and the first thing that comes to my mind is how fortunate I’ve been to be in the top level of the sport for this long,” said Kanaan before his career announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday morning. “I walked into this sport as a 23-year-old with lots of hopes and dreams and I can say, without a doubt, that I accomplished everything I wanted.
“I’m 45 now. I have fans, wins, podiums, records, a championship and an Indy 500. I feel and know I can still do this for a long time, but like everything else in life, there is also a cycle in racing. For a long time, I’ve been asked when I would retire, and my answer was always the same: ‘The day I wake up in the morning and feel like I can’t do this anymore, that’s when I’m going to retire.’
“Unfortunately, there are other things one should take into consideration when planning the future, and probably the most important one is what are the options that are available. For 2020, my best option was to race the five ovals of the NTT IndyCar Series season, the sport that gave me so much and that I will always love.
“I’m not done with racing, that’s for sure. I decided that this year I would step back a bit and enjoy these five races, have time for my family [wife Lauren, sons Leonardo, Max and Deco, and daughter Nina] and my fans, and also give back to the sponsors that always stood by me.”
Kanaan, who has made 18 Indy 500 starts and has led 361 laps there – most recently, 19 in 2018 – admitted he would “love to still be involved with IndyCar to some degree,” but said he has had offers to race in other series.
TK has proven an accomplished sportscar racer, winning the LMP2 class in Andretti Green’s Acura ARX-01 in the Sebring 12 Hours of 2007 and the Monterey SportsCar GP at Laguna Seca in 2008, before taking overall victory in the 2015 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for Chip Ganassi Racing, along with Scott Dixon, Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray.
Kanaan will be promoting the hashtag #TKLastLap during the course of the 2020 IndyCar season, on his social media channels - @tkanaan on Instagram and @tonykanaan on Twitter and Facebook.
AJ Foyt Racing, which last week announced Charlie Kimball as sole driver of its #4 entry in 2020, is expected to announce the other occupants of the Chevrolet-powered #14 entry – including Sebastien Bourdais – early next week.
Tony Kanaan (KV Racing-Chevrolet) with the iconic Borg-Warner Trophy the morning after his 2013 Indy 500 triumph.
Photo by: Michael C. Johnson
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