After more than two decades in the saddle, Tony Kanaan is still coming to terms with this year’s Indianapolis 500 being his last.
“I don’t think ‘regret’ is the right word to say,” Kanaan said. “I’m going to miss it every day of my life. I miss it now. Mario Andretti drives a two-seater, just because.
“End of May, I think it’s going to get more difficult. I’m at peace in my decision. I have a great team behind me. I think I had a great career. I have a really good shot of winning this thing. If I win, might be sitting here again next year. You never know!
“You’re never ready for this. But you’ve got to weigh your options. I went from a full-time to a part-time. You’re 48. You had a great career. As much as you don’t want to go, it’s there. If you’re smart, you make the right decisions at the right time.
“I came to this sport to win everything I could and to do the best I could. I would hate to be coming to this place just to participate. So you weigh your opportunities. Last year was a really good one. When I finished that race, I was ready, if nothing, because it was a two-year deal that I announced my retirement two years before. The question was asked: Do you think you can do it again? I think I can do it again for 10 more years the way I take care of myself. But that’s not the point. Am I going to get the chance to do at the right place again, to win it?
“Zak (Brown, McLaren CEO) called and I looked at the results. The two teams that dominated was the one that I was in and the one that I was calling. So you can’t refuse that.
“So, no, I’m not ready, but it’s not a sad story. It’s a really cool one. It’s nice to see how many people appreciate (me), which I kind of get surprised. You never think about how you set examples. The story… you can inspire so many people, the fans.”
The 2004 series champion and 2013 Indy 50 winner will drive the No. 66 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet for his final IndyCar start in a nod to McLaren founder Bruce McLaren, and also to the number’s broader significance in the team’s history.
Bruce McLaren won the 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside compatriot Chris Amon in 1966, and that year also marked the team’s Formula 1 debut at the Monaco Grand Prix.
The No. 66 was later carried by Mark Donohue on his way to victory in the 1972 Indy 500 at the wheel of the McLaren-Offy M16B, and revived by Fernando Alonso when he raced at Indy for the team in 2019. Kanaan’s car will be backed by SmartStop, which is also a primary sponsor on Felix Rosenqvist’s No. 6 entry.
“No. 66. Bruce McLaren and McLaren won their first race in 1966. Mark Donohue was here in ’72. My first go-kart number was No. 6. I picked that. My entire go-kart career, I won five championships of that. One of the races that I couldn’t race the 6, I raced 66,” Kanaan said.
“When Zak told me the story, the number, it’s just perfect. That’s what we’re rocking on. I love it. I can’t wait.”