Tony Kanaan is ready to go. Eight months after his last NTT IndyCar Series race, the returning Chip Ganassi Racing driver is smiling wide as he takes over from Jimmie Johnson for this weekend’s doubleheader at Texas Motor Speedway and puts an end to an impossibly long wait to race the No. 48 Honda.
Of the many happy places on the calendar for the Indy 500 winner, Texas gets an extra dose of enthusiasm from the 46-year-old Brazilian.
“One of my favorite racetracks,” Kanaan told RACER. “And if you look, I have the highest average finishes on the oval here; so many times, it was either on the podium or the top five, so I’m pretty excited. If we look what the team did there last year, with both cars running so good and Scott Dixon winning, if we can keep the same performance, we’ll be very happy when it’s over.”
In his oval program last season with A.J. Foyt Racing, Kanaan had too much free time on his hands while adjusting to life without a full-time IndyCar ride. Although he’s actually doing fewer ovals in 2021 due to IndyCar’s heavy rotation of road and street courses, Kanaan’s schedule has been packed with driving opportunities.
“Last year, with COVID, I really got a handle on the part-time thing,” he said. “I think it was very weird last year for me, but this year I already have a test under my belt in the car at Indy, so I think I’m more prepared than I was when we went to start the season last year at Texas. This is the new normal for me, not doing all the races, but I’m not thinking like I’ll be uncomfortable in the car. That’s all gone. So I’m excited.
“The sad part is after this weekend, I only have two more oval events to go, but man, I’m happy to have been doing the Brazilian Stock Car series, and that is keeping me running around, on planes a lot back and forth, and I’m in that new SRX series. So I’m actually doing more races this year than I’ve done since my CART days. I go back to Brazil to race again after Texas, then come back for Indy, so it’s already busy.”
Red, white, and new 🇺🇸
Let's do this, @AmericanLegion. @TonyKanaan | @JimmieJohnson pic.twitter.com/sivrALkXQY
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) April 8, 2021
Beyond racing his favorite cars at one of his favorite tracks, Kanaan is pleased to step in and take the baton from Johnson in the No. 48 Honda, which will wear a livery for primary sponsor Bryant on Saturday and switch to the American Legion on Sunday.
“It’ll be my first time racing the 48, which is so cool, because Jimmie and I have been daydreaming of doing this shared season together for a little while,” he said. “He’s learning a lot in the two races he did so far; I texted him every weekend, and I don’t expect anything less. He’ll be doing the same and watching and cheering for me. It is a great relationship. It’s something that is adding to my life story. This is something that I never expected, ever.
“I already had a great career and then you get to share a car with a guy like that, that is willing to put himself in a position like that, you know? And not to care about what people think, what people gonna say. It’s awesome. So I’m excited — I’m excited for him, I’m excited for myself. I can’t thank Chip and him enough for the opportunity. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here.”