INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Tony Kanaan said Wednesday he will compete in the Indianapolis 500 this May before retiring from IndyCar.
The 2013 Indy 500 champ made the announcement on Twitter. This year’s race is May 28.
“It’s been a wonderful incredible journey, but it’s not done yet,” the 48-year-old said in a video shot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the highlight calls fade away. “I will still have the pleasure to drive through the bricks one last time. Thank you all and I’ll see you on race day.”
Kanaan, one of the series’ most popular, most successful and longest-tenured drivers, held a news conference Wednesday afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He called it “kind of weird” to talk about retirement and reflected on his storied racing career.
Handling questions with his trademark charm and humor, Kanaan revealed he would drive the Arrow McLaren No. 66 during the IndyCar season. He plans to run in twelve IndyCar races in 2023 and will also drive in a couple other circuits.
“It’s not a sad story,” Kanaan said of his plans. “It’s a really cool one. It’s nice to see how many people appreciate [his racing career].”
Kanaan doubted his announcement would take anyone by surprise. But when word got out Wednesday morning, his phone “blew up” with messages and calls. It made for, as he called it, a “busy day.”
“To wake up this morning… I didn’t think [retiring] was a big deal. I thought it was kind of obvious. I’m 48. I’m bald. I’m old.”
It’s also not the first Kanaan has planned to retire. He first announced that 2020 would be his “Last Lap” season as series officials created a special logo for his five-race farewell tour. But when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 500 to be moved from May until August and then ran with no fans in the seats, Kanaan didn’t think it was the proper way to say goodbye.
So he returned in 2021 and then in January 2022 announced he would return again that season, too, this time as a teammate of seven-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson on the powerhouse Chip Ganassi Racing team.
While Johnson finished 28th in his first 500, at age 46, Kanaan revved up the crowd by qualifying sixth, finishing third and firing up his hopes of coming back once more in 2023.
Arrow McLaren SP, a rival of Ganassi’s team, provided that opportunity by signing Kanaan for this year’s 500 while also adding longtime Ganassi sponsor NTT Data to Kanaan’s car. He’ll be on a four-car team full of successful drivers — 2015 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, 2020 series runner-up Pato O’Ward of Mexico and Swedish driver Felix Fosenqvist, who was fourth in last year’s 500.
Needless to say, racing fans have been here before when it comes to Kanaan’s retirement. He said other drivers teased him Wednesday when learning about his latest plan to hang it up.
Kanaan will get another opportunity to join the two-time winner’s club at the Brickyard’s famous 2.5-mile oval.
Kanaan became the first IndyCar driver to complete every lap of every race during his series-championship winning 2004 season, started a record 318 consecutive races and won 17 times, tied for 26th all-time.
“It’s been a great journey. A lot of people have helped and I’m glad I’m going out on my own terms,” he said.
“I’m an IndyCar driver and I always will be.”