Tony Kanaan stepped from his No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda last week and smiled after leading team’s five-car effort during the Indianapolis Open Test. The 2013 Indy 500 winner posted the third-fastest lap on the final day with a 228.767mph blast around the 2.5-mile oval, and looking beyond the big speed, he was more so pleased with how quickly his Indy-only crew came together and struck the right chord during their first outing.
Kanaan’s crew are anything but strangers to pit lane at Indy, but with the majority of the team comprised from CGR’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship outfit, the two-day test helped to reacclimate the group who’ve come together to run the Brazilian.
Former CGR race engineer Andy Brown was drafted in to work with Kanaan, and Danielle Shepherd, Alex Palou’s performance engineer during their 2021 championship run and a new race-winning engineer on Ganassi’s IMSA Cadillac program, is paired with Brown for the month of May. Veteran CGR chief mechanic Jamie Coates, whose talents have been routinely dispatched to IndyCar and IMSA, joins Shepherd on the No. 1 Honda from the Cadillac side.
Together, they impressed, functioning like they’ve been part of a full-season IndyCar program from the outset with Kanaan.
“Obviously the team is very well prepared,” Kanaan told RACER. “As far as the crew, I have the IMSA crew, but they have a lot of IndyCar experience, so from the beginning, it’s a very capable organization that can win. We did the two days, and first we went through a list of some things that the team wanted to go through to get prepared for the month. But then it was also getting everybody working together getting in a group, and it was seamless. We had not a single issue.
“Jamie was my crew chief when I was in the 10 car back in the Target days. Danielle, she’s my assistant engineer, and she worked with me as well. And Andy Brown, he’s a legend. Honestly, my team is badass. We got the best of everybody.”
Kanaan’s only goal is to bring CGR back to victory lane at Indy for the first time in a decade. Holding onto the chemistry and results from the open test are the priority.
“It feels great now, but that’s it,” he said. “What we did at the test doesn’t mean it will be the same next time, so now we’ve just got to go back in a few weeks and keep our heads on straight. I have a couple of (Brazilian) stock car races before that, and those guys have IndyCar and IMSA races before that, so we won’t see each other until the start of practice.
“But this was great for me. The biggest thing was it like it was a refreshment for me. I haven’t been run in IndyCar since Gateway last year, so eight months or so. So for me, I have my head in place now, and next time, we’ll come back to and be really up to speed. But it will be a restart. What happened at the test? Doesn’t matter. But the situation of running a fifth car and it being ready to go with the other four guys, I think this is the best situation by far.”