Indycar-Getting to Know: Tony Kanaan
Tony Kanaan is exactly who you think he is. He’s a very personable, fun to be around guy that just happens to be very passionate about his craft. That’s the biggest thing I took away from speaking with TK on a very cold yet beautiful afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park. Then again, any afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park is beautiful. What makes it even more beautiful is pulling onto the grounds and being greeted by the sounds of V-6 turbocharged engines echoing about the park. As I drove along the perimeter road, past the Lady in the Lake, past the Bouncy Church which was being dismantled from the previous day’s WERA motorcycle race, up the hill past the Sparkle Pony Statue, I looked across the track and saw cars on track. Franchitti, Dixon, Jakes, Kimball, Kanaan, and an all black mystery car with only a Chevrolet logo on the cowling; all on track and turning laps in anger. For a racing junkie, moments like this in a long offseason are most welcome. I could smell Ethanol in the air, and I knew I was home.
When one goes home, it’s usually to visit family. Today, the family I visited was my brother-in-racing, Tony Kanaan. Being around Tony and his PR Rep, Benito, truly felt like family. It almost felt as if I’d always known them, and we were picking up where we left off. After first attempting to begin our chat outside, TK made the call to move inside the warmth of the KV Racing Technology hauler. We went over many topics, from some housekeeping on the 2012 season to looking at the future of the sport. We also found time to discuss triathlons and the potential of future Kanaans in motorsports.
Open Paddock: You just finished up a triathlon. How’d that go? Wear you out pretty well?
Tony Kanaan: I didn’t finish actually because we were coming here to test. When I first booked the triathlon, this test wasn’t on the schedule. There was some commitment with the (triathlon) sponsors I have. I had to do it, so… I started okay but felt it was going to be too hard, and this (Indycar) is defintely my day job, so I just did the swim and the bike leg.
OP: What were your personal high points of 2012?
TK: Indy! The four podiums we had. I think it was better than 2011 because of the amount of podium finishes we got, but we still didn’t get a win. As far as the points, they didn’t play out as well which is one of the reasons we didn’t finish as high. I think the podiums and the Indy 500 were the best parts.
OP: What do you look to improve on in 2013?
TK: I think we need to improve our qualifying efforts. That’s something that hurt us this year and it’s really just a bunch of little details here and there, but we really want to win. We’re working on winning.
OP: Pocono’s been added to the schedule. Your thoughts?
TK: I’ve never been there, but I’ve heard it’s traditionally been a part of Indycar. It’s another oval and I like ovals.
OP: How do you think engine competition’s been?
TK: I think it was a big fight between Honda and Chevy. Unfortunately, Lotus didn’t have enough. I think it’s healthy. it helps the series to grow, and competition is always good.
OP: You’ve had a season in the new chassis. What do you think about it?
TK: I love it! At first, i think it took a long time or me, to grown on me with the way that it looked. It’s fast. It’s safe. It’s definitely, with the issues we had in the beginning, we were able to fix them with Dallara and Indycar. It’s awesome.
OP: How has Mark Johnson’s retirement affected KV racing?
TK: I think he was a big part of this team and we’ll definitely miss him, but he decided to go do something else and he’ll be missed. We still talk.
OP: What’s your take on Randy Bernard’s departure?
TK: I don’t know. All I can say is I was a big fan of Randy. I don’t want to get into the details because I don’t know, so it’s easy for us to judge or not. I liked him, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out and I wish him the best, but in my books, he was a very good CEO for us.
OP: What was it like to get to work with Rubens?
TK: It was awesome. I mean, the history we have together, it was fun! We had fun all the time, even when we had hard times at the racetrack.
OP: Of all the racecars you’ve driven, what’s your favorite?
TK: My 1999 Champ Car in Michigan that we had 1,000 horespower in. (1999 Reynard 99i-Honda, the U.S. 500 winner)
OP: I miss those cars.
TK: Me too
OP: Favorite track?
TK: Indy. (NOTE: TK answered this one with zero hesitation. This dude loves Indy.)
OP: Something you’d like to accomplish in your racing career other than an Indy 500 win?
TK: I just want to be able to still be competitive. I think accomplishments are made by a lot of hard work and luck sometimes. I think I’ve come a long ways. I don’t want to be ungrateful through my career that I could have won more. I could have won less and there are people who have never won anything. I would say other than The 500, to be able to keep racing competitively, maybe for a few more years.
OP: Favorite Teammate?
TK: That’s tough, man! I think I would say Alex Zanardi
OP: Who’s the best young Brazilian talent coming up right now?
TK: We have a kid called Felipe Nasr. He’s racing right now in Europe in GP2. He’s the hot rod.
OP: Do you think you’ll let your son race one day?
TK: I don’t think I can say no, but he’s going to have to be good at it! I’ll give him the opportunity if he proves that he’s good enough, then yeah.
OP: What do you see yourself doing after leaving the cockpit?
TK: Involved in racing somehow. I think I played a big role in so many drivers careers as far as helping them out and with my teammates, so I see myself doing something like that. It fascinates me to do a little bit of TV as well, and a lot of people say I have the personality for it, but something related to racing for sure!
OP: What is the proudest moment of your racing career?
TK: When I made it to Indycar. It wasn’t about wins, but rather having finally made it.
OP: What is something the fans might not know about you that you’d like them to know?
TK: That I’m a very sensitive guy. I cry watching TV. If there’s a nice commercial that touches my heart, I cry. That’s a nice thing. Thank God you didn’t ask me the bad things. Ha!
Big thanks to Benito Santos and all the people at KV Racing for allowing me to join you.
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