During his first trip back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since being crowed the Indy 500 champion on May 27th, Tony Kanaan sensed something different about the track he loves so much. Was it the aura of returning as champion, something he had long-strived for in his career? Was it the new picture that hangs near the pagoda with his likeness with the Borg Warner wreath? Or was it that once he turned off of 16th and Georgetown into the historic track, he never has to worry about the weight on his shoulders of not having won the big one?
Well, all those three, and something a little bit more simpler.
“Going into turn-one in the opposite way was quite a trip this morning,” said Kanaan with a big smile.
Kanaan hit the road-course for practice and qualifying for his first-ever Grand-Am race Thursday afternoon, finishing tenth overall in the field. When Ryan Briscoe had to pull out of the race due to a wrist injury, Chip Ganassi offered the ride to Kanaan which could give Tony a chance at history. If he were to cross the finish line first with teammate Joey Hand in the Brickyard Grand Prix GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race on Friday night, Kanaan will become the first driver to win two races in the same calendar year at the famous track.
For Kanaan, it was an offer he just couldn’t turn down.
“First of all, because it’s Indy,” said Kanaan as to why he took the chance to drive in the race.
“Second of all, I’m jumping in the most competitive team in Grand-Am, and I’ve gotten beat by these guys by a long shot all the time in IndyCar. It will be a pleasure to drive for Chip and those guys, so those are the two things that struck me the most when I took the job. Coming back to Indy after the 500, it is always a good feeling.”
With his contract up with KV Racing at the end of next week on August 1st, Kanaan did note not to look too much into him stepping in for the Ganassi team for one race. Kanaan noted that both sides are working on a deal to keep him with his current team. As far as Friday goes however, Kanaan knows he has his work cut out for him in a pretty deep field that includes some of the best drivers in the Grand-Am series, as well as AJ Allmendinger, Rubens Barichello, and Sebastien Bourdais.
But after a magical May, Kanaan has to know deep down inside that anything can happen at the Motor Speedway.
“I can’t even imagine doing it in the same year twice after twelve years trying,” said Kanaan with a laugh. “We’ll see.”