The effects of the current pandemic have touched every part of society – including, weirdly, the IndyCar record books.
At the end of 2019, Tony Kanaan signed off from his full-time IndyCar career expecting his unprecedented streak of 317 consecutive starts to be broken when the field lined up without him at St Petersburg in March. Global events sent everything off the rails, and two months on, not only is Kanaan’s streak still intact, it’s actually primed to be extended when the Brazilian takes the green at Texas in a couple of weeks.
It’s an unexpected twist to the start of his scheduled five-oval ‘TK Last Lap’ farewell tour, yet entirely in keeping with a guy who once lost a plum drive at the 11th-hour, grabbed a lifeline with the less well-resourced KV outfit, and took the team into Victory Lane at Indy just two-and-a-half years later.
With the 2004 series champion’s ring to go with his 2013 Baby Borg, Kanan’s one of the most fan-friendly drivers in the field, and we’re grateful to him to taking the time to answer reader questions.
Catch up on any of the previous Guest Mailbags that you might have missed below. Questions for Michael Andretti, who will be the final guest in the current series, are now closed.
And now, over to Tony Kanaan.
Q: What was your favorite memory of Senna growing up in Brazil, and do you plan on racing at Eldora again?
TONY KANAAN: My favorite memory of Senna was definitely racing a go-kart against him and winning the race back in ‘92. He had built a go-kart track at his farm and invited some drivers and celebrities to race. I qualified on pole, but Senna inverted the grid, putting me last. On the formation lap he joined the field behind me, and we went from last and next-to-last to the front. I won the race and he finished second. Yes, if I have the chance I’ll race at Eldora again.
Q: I am a long-time fan of yours from the CART days. My question is a ‘what if’ scenario. If the fates had been kinder, and you were now ending your career along with your long-time teammates Dario Franchitti, Dan Wheldon and Greg Moore, who would have been the team leader? Who would have the most Indy 500s? Who would have the most wins? Who would have the most championships?
Good luck in the Indy 500 this year.
Arvind Mahadevan, Peoria, AZ
TK: Dario would be the team leader. Greg would have the most 500s, wins and championships.
Q: Which is harder, an Ironman or the Indy 500?
TK: Physically, doing an Ironman is harder. A lot harder.
Q: Would you ever consider driving a midget on dirt?
TK: Yes, I would.
Q: For a string of years before you won the 500, probably 2007 to 2012, you would get out of your car after the race and walk from your pit box to Victory Circle or back to the garages. Those of us with seats on the front straight who stuck around got to give you a huge round of applause as you walked your way down. Great moment.
How would you rate Sam Hornish Jr. among all of those who you’ve raced against on ovals?
Clint, Chicago, IL
TK: Thanks for the kind note. I still stick around to congratulate the winner. Sometimes an interview holds me up and I can’t go to the winner’s circle, but I always try to find the winner before he goes out on his parade lap around IMS. Sam was a good driver.
Q: Tony, do you see yourself as a promoter of an IndyCar race in Brazil?
Jakub Dradrach, Wroclaw, Poland
TK: No, I don’t.
Q: What a great opportunity it is to write to you. Congratulations on a long and very successful career.
As I raced sprint cars in my youth, I have longed to ask IndyCar drivers questions regarding the modern race cars. My questions are only regarding driving on ovals.
My understanding is that total downforce was reduced from around 7500 lbs to 5000 last year. Is that in the ballpark? From all the information I could acquire, the DW12 had around 2500 lbs of downforce out of the box. Is that right?
Next, I always wondered as electronic technology grew in these cars, is there a microsecond lag in the fly-by-wire throttle response ? And I do mean micro.
Good luck and Godspeed in all you do, Tony. You deserve it!
TK: Man, those questions are for my engineer! I have no idea, to be honest. I stick to driving. I don’t feel any lag on the throttle response.
Q: Give us a story about a prank played between Dario, Dan, Brian and you that no one has heard about.
PS: Make sure the statute of limitations has run out!
TK: All of our prank stories are out there… I never kept any of them from the public!
Q: Have you spoken with Sam Hornish since that famous pit row feud involving his dad in 2007 that played out on TV?
TK: No, I have not. I have not spoken to him since that day, I believe.
Q: I know you have the mandatory family SUV and a cool car just for you, but tell us the specs on the cool road bike you must ride daily. Make, model, weight, specs, etc. Thanks T.K, and “Keep spinning!”
TK: My current favorite bike is a Trek Madone 9 SLR equipped with SRAM Red eTap, Zipp 454/858 wheels and ISM seat. She’s fast!