Ask any IZOD IndyCar series champion and he’d say he would gladly give up that championship to win one Indianapolis 500.
And most fans would gladly give up their favorite driver winning that race if Tony Kanaan could be the one taking the checkered flag instead.
Kanaan is a guy that many believe they can relate to. He’s a nice guy, he works hard and sometimes he simply has bad luck.
But he perseveres. Fans love Kanaan and he will admit that the way fans treat him is special.
“To me, the best memories, it’s every time I drive my golf cart out, I can hear my name big time,” he said from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway recently. “The year I started last, we went all of the way to the lead and we ended up finishing 11th because of a strategy at the end. I got out of the car and the entire place was screaming my name … and Dario [Franchitti] won the race.”
That was in 2010 when Kanaan drove for Andretti Autosport. Because of a crash on Pole Day, he was forced to qualify on Bump Day. The morning became a nightmare when Kanaan crashed again in morning practice. The car had to be rebuilt with parts from his teammates’ cars. Shortly before 5:30 p.m. on Bump Day, Kanaan came out to qualify, making him the 32nd qualifier. When he climbed from the car, the fan reaction was deafening.
In that race, he went from the back to passing eight cars on the first lap and another nine cars just 15 laps later. In his Indy 500 career, he has led in nine of the 11 races he has started. He has finished second, third (twice), fourth, fifth and eighth in six races and has probably passed more cars in that race than anyone else.
Kanaan’s been the guy people were sure was going to win in any given year. He was leading the race in 2004 when the rains came. But the race was restarted after a long delay and he finished second. Along with Michael Andretti, Kanaan is among those drivers whom the fans say the track “owes him one.”
Kanaan, however, thinks differently.
“I don’t feel this place owes me anything,” he said. “I have had great times here.”
Kanaan says that because of the way the fans treat him he sort of feels like he won.
“If I never win this thing, I think I got the feeling from people around here how it is to win,” he noted. “Obviously, it will be a lot different if I would have my face on the trophy, but I don’t think it owes me anything.”
As a teammate, Kanaan has taken on the role of senior driver, mentoring to his either younger or less experienced teammates. It’s a role he did not ask for, but fulfills, nevertheless.
“It was a role that I got back in the Andretti days and it’s been following me ever since,” he said. “I don’t mind. I guess they pick the old guy to teach the young kids.”
Last season, it was Kanaan’s good friend, Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello, who joined him with KV Racing. Although successful in F1, for Barrichello, it was a different machine and Kanaan the friend also became a teacher.
This year, Simona De Silvestro is the new teammate at KV and already their chemistry is working.
“I definitely can learn a lot from her,” Kanaan said. “Her feedback is remarkable. I think it’s a learning process for both of us to understand the way we like cars and how we can migrate from one car to another.”
Kanaan already has pranked her by greasing the door handle of her passenger car so she had to walk back to the truck to get something to wipe away the mess. His real mission with De Silvestro is to find her a boyfriend and says he will launch a Twitter campaign to find one for her.
No matter what pranks he may pull, Kanaan is serious about winning, but is rather philosophical about it as well.
“There are so many variables and that’s what makes me want to come back,” he mentioned. “That’s the beauty of this place. I hate it sometimes.”
Kanaan said even if he never wins at Indy, he will not be bitter because the fans at Indianapolis have made him a bigger name even more for not winning.
“We have tried everything,” he reflected. “I say this place will pick the winner. If it’s my day, it’s my day.”
He is still asked every year, “What’s it going to take to win?”
His reply is very simple: “What it really is going to take is to lead the last lap.”
Qualified for the 12th position Sunday, Kanaan will be making his 12th start in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Ask any IZOD IndyCar series champion and he’d say he would gladly give up that championship to win one Indianapolis 500.
- Auto Racing
Metro roundup: Post 346 rallies past Rockville
Wayne Newton Post 346 scored a run in the sixth and two in the seventh to get past Rockville 6-3 in an American Legion baseball regional at Terre Haute North on Wednesday.
Todd Golden: Bigelow part of Action Track’s lifeblood
Many things have changed since the Terre Haute Action Track opened in 1952, but the one constant is dirt.
Metro: ISU graduate Johnson sixth in shot at Monaco
Indiana State graduate Felisha Johnson competed in her first International Association of Athletics Federations Diamond League track and field meeting Friday, placing sixth in a shot put competition that featured six of the top seven throwers in the world for 2014.
Clauson breaks Action Track drought in Don Smith Classic
Bryan Clauson wins the Don Smith Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Joe Buckles: New alliance features powerful figures trying to lower costs
Possibly no off track developments involving NASCAR racing over the past 20 to 30 years has generated as much interest and speculation as last week’s announcement regarding the formation of the new Race Team Alliance organization.
Riley 10s go 4-1, place second in state tourney
Riley’s 10-and-under all-star team finished as runner-up over the weekend at the Cal Ripken baseball Central Indiana tournament.
Trackside: Valley race fans should be happy
Whether your preference is non-wing sprint cars or late-model stock cars, this is the week that Wabash Valley race fans look forward to all summer.
The best of the best is the only way to describe what will unfold this week at Valley ovals. First comes the continuation of the popular UMP Summer National “Hell Week” tour for late models and its annual stop at Terre Haute Action Track tonight. USAC’s Indiana Sprint Week opens later this weekend with stops at Gas City on Friday night, Kokomo on Saturday and Lawrenceburg on Sunday evening.
Metro sports: Pounds among winners at Crossroads Dragway
Ron Pound was one of the winners in Crossroads Dragway racing on Saturday.
Trackside: Rising costs make Valley racing more difficult than ever
The life and times of your weekly short-track racer has long lived up to the colorful and exciting ways coveted by those in the stands who gather each weekend to watch their favorite team or driver compete.
While the weekly trek to the race track has always presented its challenges, the task in recent times has made those trips to the many dirt ovals across the country a little more difficult to make.
Metro roundup: Lady Rex take Ohio softball tournament
The Lady Rex 18u softball team had a 5-1 record over the weekend to win the Ohio Premier tournament.
Trackside: Likable Dave Darland still chalking up victories at 48
One of short-track racing’s all-time open-wheel greats continues to add to his growing legacy.
When veteran racer Dave Darland rolled into victory lane at Lincoln Park Speedway last week, he notched his 94th USAC career win. Add the countless number of open-competition wins over the years and it’s easy to surmise the popular driver is approaching the lofty 200-win plateau.
His latest checkered flag came in the USAC Indiana Midget Week show at the same 5⁄16-mile dirt oval where he cut his teeth in an open-cockpit car more than 30 years ago.
Groomer among Lincoln Park winners; Bell, Abreu take Indiana Midget Week races
Ralph Groomer was a feature winner in racing on Saturday at Lincoln Park Speedway.
Trackside: Thumbs up given for upcoming Indiana Midget Week
In his many years of serving in the public relation department for the U.S. Auto Club, Dick Jordan has developed a keen sense for rating the overall health and future of dirt-track open-wheel racing.
So when the veteran publicist voices a note of guarded optimism for the running of an upcoming series, one knows something special looms on the horizon.
Metro sports: Cassell wins Lawrence County title
Chris Cassell put together two rounds of 4-under-par 68 for a two-shot victory for his first Albright Motors Lawrence County Open championship on Sunday.
Metro: White wins mile, Sebastian 5K at TH Memorial Day events
Nolan White won the mile run and Matthew Sebastian won the 5-kilometer walk during Terre Haute Parks Memorial Day events Monday at Deming Park.
Six former winners chasing Indy 500 championship
Angst, frustration and heartbreak are all part of the lore of the Indianapolis 500, but when a driver finally takes the checkered flag, all of those words are quickly relegated to the back of their mind and replaced with pure joy. That emotion keeps bringing them back, and for the 98th running of the Indy 500, six former winners will chase that passion again.
Darland wins Hulman Classic for 50th trip to USAC victory lane
For once, the Terre Haute Action Track and the U.S. Auto Club got a weather break Wednesday night, a window amidst threatening conditions to allow the 44th Tony Hulman Classic to go off without a serious hitch.
Some might say Dave Darland got a break too, but most would agree instead that the veteran sprint car driver has learned to make his own breaks by this time. He won the Classic for the second time in his career — the first coming in 1993 — and is a three-time USAC winner this season while no one else has won more than once.
Trackside: Tony Hulman Classic set for tonight at T.H. Action Track
Looking for a potential dark horse winner in tonight’s scheduled running of the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned running of the Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track?
The task is indeed a challenging one. The USAC sprint circuit offers some of the most competitive forms of racing anywhere in the country and picking a potential winner out of a field that has at least eight to 10 drivers capable of making it to victory lane is very much a guessing game.
Unlikely duo on Indy GP pole
Verizon IndyCar drivers in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis showcased rooster tails Friday as the rains came down for the Firestone Fast Six qualifying. Red flag conditions briefly halted the final session as officials stopped action for safety reasons.
Owner-driver Ed Carpenter getting ready for Indy run
Before too many pages get torn off the May calendar, IndyCar team owner and driver Ed Carpenter is trying to enjoy his free time away from race tracks.
Wednesday afternoon was an example of that.
The Wabash Valley native — born in Paris, Ill., and lived in Marshall, Ill., until he was 8 — signed autographs and granted media interviews while the car he drove in the 2008 Indianapolis 500 sat in the parking lot of the 500 Automotive Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership in Vermillion County.
Drivers give thumbs up to Indy’s new road course
IndyCar drivers were unified Wednesday: The new road course at Indianapolis is a whole lot better than the old one.
Trackside: Track promoters realize rainy weather is part of territory
The life and times of a race-track operator or promoter is sure to test the patience and character of any individual adventurous enough to journey into such a risky profession.
Especially if your name is Bob Sargent or Reece O’Connor and your race dates are at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Metro roundup: ISU’s Wampler makes national watch list
Indiana State’s Tyler Wampler has been named to the watch list for the 2014 Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year award.
2014 KISS Series opener today at Terre Haute Action Track
When the 2014 King of Indiana Sprint Series gets underway today, it will be at one of the most challenging ovals on the schedule. The Terre Haute Action Track earned its name years ago.
The Action Track is a big half mile, with sweeping turns and high-speed straightaways that demand the best from drivers, cars and crew. This may be illustrated by mentioning previous KISS winners at the Terre Haute oval — Jon Stanbrough (three times), Levi Jones, Tony Elliott, Shane Cottle and most recently Robert Ballou.
VIDEO: Windom seeking strong start to USAC Silver Crown Series at Action Track
Chris Windom has big plans.
Sure, the 23-year-old would like to make the ascent from success in the U.S. Auto Club to the fame and fortune of the larger racing series of NASCAR.
The Canton, Ohio, native who makes his home in West Lafayette has his sights on a big USAC season in 2014. Windom was second in Silver Crown points in 2013 and ninth in the sprint series.
Trackside: If weather cooperates, racers are set to start their engines
With any assistance from the weather, the Wabash Valley motorsports season is expected to shift into high gear this weekend on several fronts.
Nabors to sing ‘Indiana’ one last time at IMS
INDIANAPOLIS — Beloved actor-entertainer and legendary Indianapolis 500 icon Jim Nabors will sing “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the final time prior to the start of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25. Watch YouTube Video
Action Track great Gary Bettenhausen dies
Gary Bettenhausen, a legend of the Terre Haute Action Track, has died at age 72.
Kurt Busch to try Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600 on same day
It’s been 10 years since a driver last attempted running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, a feat so grueling that only Tony Stewart has successfully completed all 1,100 miles.
Now Kurt Busch wants to give “the double” a try and he will have cars capable of winning both races.
Kurt Busch 70 percent sure he’ll run in Indy 500
Kurt Busch put his chances at “70 percent” at running the Indianapolis 500 this year because of recent developments that have pushed a potential program along.
- More Auto Racing Headlines
- Metro roundup: Post 346 rallies past Rockville