The Indianapolis 500 means everything to A.J. Foyt. and it’s the one race where Tony Kanaan always figures to be a factor. And they’re hoping their final pairing together this May can bring the No.14 car back to the front.
“I’m in great shape, I’m always competitive at Indianapolis, and I can win it again,” said the 2013 Indy winner, who officially confirmed Thursday what RACER has been reporting for five months – he will be running all five ovals for Foyt in 2020. “Everything has to go completely right, but I’ve been in contention every year, and if you can run in the top 10, things can happen.
“I need more of a competitive car than we had last year, but we’ve got Mike Colliver and Mike Pawlowski with us now, and I think we’ll have a good baseline to start. It’s my favorite place, so let’s see what happens.”
The popular 45-year-old Brazilian finished ninth last year but was one of the three fastest drivers in 2018, along with winner Will Power and polesitter Ed Carpenter. He led 19 laps and his was the only car to pass Power on the track before he got a flat tire.
It might sound a bit delusional to think T.K. can contest for another spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy after last year’s disastrous campaign in which he wound up 15th in the point standings. Kanaan thinks otherwise.
“We made the wrong decision on dampers that screwed us,” he explained. “Other teams improved, but we were not that far off. We weren’t a disaster on the ovals and got the team’s first podium in five years at Gateway (third), so it’s not a hopeless situation.
“It’s going to be a whole new deal this year with the aeroscreens because it’s going to change the reaction of the car, and we’ve got both Mikes, some outside sources, and I think we’re going to be OK. I’ve never been uncompetitive in my career at Indianapolis.”
Kanaan wanted to run the full season, but with ABC Supply cutting back to Indy-only sponsorship, he was offered Indy, Texas, Iowa, Richmond and Gateway by his car owner of the past three years. RACER believes Sebastien Bourdais and rookie Dalton Kellett will contest the 12 road races, and Charlie Kimball has already been confirmed as the full-time driver of the No. 4 car.
So TK’s Last Lap, as his farewell tour will be called, is turning left only – where he’s scored 15 of his 17 wins.
“I didn’t know I was any good on ovals until I got here, because I’d never run one,” said the 2004 IndyCar champion who is bringing in 7/Eleven, Bryant Heating & Cooling and Big Machine Vodka to sponsor his other four races. “Obviously they suit my style of driving, and over the years I’ve run good on them.”
Asked if it ovals were easier than road and street courses for the oldest driver in the field, he replied: “No, not easier, they just suit me better. They favor aggressive drivers that like high-speed corners. We have balls and we use them. And experience on an oval is invaluable.”
The father of four is now a full-time Indianapolis resident who married an Indiana girl (Lauren) and is involved in the Riley Children’s Hospital and on the board of the Children’s Museum. He’s recognized everywhere in the city, and embraces the popularity that was bestowed on the friendly Brazilian kid that came from nothing and finally conquered Indy after years of coming close.
He’s not sad about a future outside of the cockpit at all. Just curious.
“Nothing to be sad about, brother,” he said. “I’ve been racing for 36 years, 23 of them in IndyCar, and I came from nothing and made a decent living thanks to racing, so I’m very grateful. I’ve got a great family, and I’m going to give my kids a better life than I had.
“The hardest thing is the transition. I’ve been doing the same thing over and over again for two decades, and I’m not sad, it’s time for a change. And I’m not saying I’m retiring, I’m just not doing this full-time again.”