INDIANAPOLIS – It’s not up to Tony Kanaan whether he drives in the Indy 500 again.
But if that were the case, he doesn’t think it’s a hard decision whether he still has what it takes to win the world’s biggest race at 40.
“I can’t even say it because I’m going to curse,” Kanaan, 47, said Sunday when asked if he finished third (his best at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since winning the 2013 Indy 500) proved he’s as good as he’s ever been on the 2.5-mile oval. “It’s so lame that people think we’re old at 47. We can’t drive anymore.” It’s crap. So yes, I’m ready. Ready to do it again.”
The question is whether Kanaan will get another chance. It was his second straight start with Chip Ganassi Racing, which needed to fill in for Jimmie Johnson with the No. 48 Dallara-Honda last season and added a fifth car for Kanaan this year when Johnson changed his mind about ovals.
After initially declaring that 2020 would be his final season in IndyCar, Kanaan is now hoping to make 2023 his 22nd.n.d and the final start in the Indy 500.
“I want to do one more and I’ll be 25 next yearthu year in IndyCar,” said the Brazilian, who began racing in the CART series in 1998 and recently wrote an essay on the toll that racing can take on the mental health of the driver. “I don’t have a deal right now, but if I can make it happen, we’ll call it the last one.” So I hope we have a year to find out. If not, this place owes me nothing. Look at the fans at the red flag, I had the biggest cheer anyway, they wanted them to win. I will be extremely grateful, but we will try.’
It looked like 106 brieflythu Kanaan can win the Indy 500. IndyCar stopped the race on lap 195 for cleanup after Johnson’s crash with teammate Marcus Ericsson in the lead.
This set up a two-lap shootout at the checkered flag with Kanaan hoping to “pull the TK restart” with one of his patented passes on the outside of the green flag. However, he was unable to maneuver his No. 1 Dallara-Honda around the Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolets, second Pat O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist (whom he eventually overtook for third as Ericsson won the race).
“I think the key was when Pato saw Felix coming up the other end and he actually moved (inside) and left me, basically in the face of the wind,” Kanaan said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, I still want to finish in the top three here.’ I knew it was over.
“I moved out, gave Felix space and left him flat. Obviously I know Felix well enough, I knew he wasn’t going to play dirty. Coming off the short slide, Pato had to make his turn to get into turn two. That gave me enough of a draft, (but) I knew it was over.”
But is this the end of his IndyCar career? Regardless, there will be plenty of chances to see the popular Kanaan this year as he competes in the Superstar Racing Experience and Series series in Brazil for the second year in a row.
“I was very emotional in the cool-down lap, talking to the team,” he said after leading six laps on Sunday. “I know my days are numbered (at the Indy 500). I have a plan like I said. I think next year will probably be, if I can make it, really the last year. It was the last one at the moment.
“I’m doing 23 races this year, which is more than when I was in IndyCar. I don’t feel like I’m going to retire. I know I can still drive. Of course, we have that thing that people like to talk about, ages and ages and ages. But I think I’m in pretty good shape. I will continue to do so as long as I have the opportunity. Of course I’ll be back here, especially the last two years with the team I’m in, if he’s not there I’ll assess my chances. I don’t want to be here just to participate. I’ve done it many times.”
It would probably be best with team owner Chip Ganassi, who didn’t rule it out on Sunday.
“In his retirement, we made him vice president of entertainment,” Ganassi said with a smile. “And he can drive too, yeah. He can still win this race. You saw today with his performance. Kanaan is a veteran. He is a wily veteran. He knows his way around this place, no doubt about it. So we’re not throwing him out yet.”
Tony Kanaan says he has a ‘plan’ for final Indy 500 start next season: ‘I’m ready’ originally appeared on NBCSports.com