IndyCar season review: Tony Kanaan

IndyCar season review: Tony Kanaan


IndyCar season review: Tony Kanaan

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What will you remember the 2015 IndyCar season for? Juan Pablo Montoya’s teflon coating wearing off right at the time he needed it most? The introduction of the aero kits, several years after they were first mooted? Rocky Moran Jr.’s inspiring hour of track time at Long Beach?

To try to make sense of it all, RACER‘s Marshall Pruett, Robin Miller and Mark Glendenning asked each other some searching questions about all of 2015’s regulars, which for the purpose of this review, includes anyone who started a minimum of half the races. Look for new installments every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

2015 starts: 16

2015 best finish: 2nd (Texas, Fontana)
2015 championship position: eigth; 431pts

Provided TK has the same engineer and crew members around him, can he pose a more consistent threat to Dixon as Ganassi’s top dog?

MARSHALL PRUETT: Tony can absolutely pose a more consistent threat to Dixon next year—and he actually spent most of 2015 mirroring his championship-winning teammate’s performances. TK’s well-known weakness has been in qualifying where poor starts have necessitated daring passes to make up ground, but he turned a page last season, and only started outside the top-12 on two occasions. He started eighth or better 11 times, and had an average starting position of 7.6. Dixon’s average of 6.1 was better, yet wasn’t light years ahead of TK.

It all points to Kanaan doing a better job of maximizing his overall performances—from Friday through Sunday, and when it comes to the areas where he can gain ground on Dixon, luck would go a long way to bridge the gap in the standings.

TK’s supreme skills as an oval driver have never been questioned, yet the Brazilian recorded three of his four worst finishes on ovals thanks to contact and mechanical issues. Minus the uncharacteristic bad days at Indy (P26), Iowa (P21), and Pocono (P19), and Tony would be much higher up in the points.

The takeaway for me from TK’s 2015 is he and engineer Todd Malloy settled in right away, became a threat at most events, and were much closer to Dixon than an eighth-place result in the standings might imply. The threat is already there.

Did Kanaan do enough vindicate to another season in one of the frontline Ganassi cars?

ROBIN MILLER: Of course the stat that jumps out at you is that nine drivers won a race in 2015 and T.K. wasn’t one of them. But it wasn’t because he wasn’t fast enough. On the contrary, he led seven races for 213 laps (fourth overall) and nobody was any quicker on the ovals. But his pace on road and street circuits was also good as his average starting spot was seventh. As shown at Fontana, Kanaan still has the fire and stones to put it all on the line and three podiums belie how racy this 40-year-old veteran truly was in 2015. He’s the most popular driver because of his personality but his drive runs a close second and he definitely earned the right to stay in #10.

Was Kanaan’s winless year a simple product of it being such an unusually close season, or was there something more fundamental going on?

MARK GLENDENNING: It was just one of those years. There were a few weekends where Kanaan had the pace to win; it just never came together for whatever reason. OK, so finishing his second season with Ganassi one place lower than last year with 112 fewer points doesn’t look awesome on the surface, especially when you take into account that there was one less double-points race in 2015.

But raw numbers can have a way of skewing reality. Kanaan was a monster on road and street courses this year: despite the lack of wins – and a solitary road/street podium – he still out-scored everybody in the field except Scott Dixon, Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya at those venues. His oval numbers were skewed by a couple of single-car crashes (at Indy and Pocono) and what looked like an engine failure (at Iowa). The remaining three ovals yielded second-places at Texas and Fontana, and a sixth at Milwaukee. Not bad.

In a season rife with quirks, the fact that Kanaan performed as well as he did and only finished with three podiums is one of the strangest statistics of all.

Missed one of the earlier reviews? You can go back and read them here:

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