By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems have been involved in Indy car racing when it first sponsored six-time Indianapolis 500 top-10 finisher Eddie Johnson in 1958. Fast forward 62 years, the company are still going strong as they’ll be sponsoring Tony Kanaan in the Iowa INDYCAR 250s at Iowa Speedway.
Bryant has been Kanaan’s associate sponsor for 13 out of the last 14 years, but they’ve stepped up their game as they’ll don the red and white No. 14 Chevrolet this doubleheader weekend.
“We’re pleased to be the primary sponsor of Tony’s car this weekend in Iowa and we couldn’t be happier with the livery,” said Margo Richter, Marketing Manager of Bryant.
“We’ve had a long relationship with Tony throughout his IndyCar Series career, and it has been an honor to work with him. He is a true inspiration and a wonderful ambassador of the sport of auto racing, so we couldn’t think of a better way to express our gratitude than to support him at one of his final races. We are excited to celebrate his entire Last Lap Tour this season and we wish him the best of luck this weekend.”
With this season being the #TKLastLap Tour, Kanaan is pretty excited to have them sponsoring his car as he’ll only have four more races before scaling back on his racing career.
“I have a long relationship with them. They step it up big-time this year to make the T.K. Last Lap possible. I have good friends there,” said Kanaan.
“We have the loudest fans on the INDYCAR parade here in Indianapolis during the month of May. Bryant bring more than 500 people every year to the Indy 500. It’s not going to be different this year.
“I’m extremely excited. The car looks beautiful. Not obviously just that they sponsor me. It came out really cool. I’m excited about it. Iowa is a good track for me. We had a lot of success there in the past. Looking forward to this weekend.”
It won’t be the first time Bryant will sponsor an A.J. Foyt owned car as the late John Andretti had Bryant in 1994 when he became the first driver to do “The Double.” The 2013 Indy 500 champion said his career longevity can be traced to Bryant’s long time support. Even allowing the company to come up with the livery design which he was happy how it came out.
“They made my career last a lot longer because they are one of my biggest sponsors. They’ve been with me through every team. I moved, they moved with me. It’s a company that knows racing, that knows the background,” Kanaan about his relationship with Bryant.
When asked about if he would’ve loved to compete in Foyt’s era, Kanaan responded that he’d up for the challenge despite Foyt’s discretion.
“I could have raced in the 1960s, I don’t disagree. I think I see a lot of things in my boss that I still have it today,” said Kanaan. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but that’s just the way we are. For sure I would have loved to actually be part of those days. I know it was dangerous.
“He tells me, Tony, we’d start a season, we didn’t know if we would finish the season. Not finish the season because you’d be out of the car but because you probably be not around.
“I like that dangerous part. I like the mentality, the way they used to run things. That’s how A.J. and I clicked, because he’s a much older school, but I’m kind of old school.”
In addition of Bryant sponsoring Kanaan, Iowa Speedway confirmed Wednesday that the 2010 Iowa winner will also be the grand marshal for Friday’s race as he’ll make the command inside his Bryant machine.
“It’s something that it’s hard for me because I’m very emotional,” said Kanaan. “I’m going to have to actually hold my breath because I’m really easy to get emotional when people are doing stuff and I actually knowing that.
“It’s an honor. I’m glad I’m doing from inside the car, to be honest. I’m excited. It’s one of those things that I didn’t expect it at all. I think it was a nice gesture. I can’t wait.”
A decade removed from his lone Iowa triumph, Kanaan is ready for the challenge that lies ahead as he’ll be running a combined total of 500 laps in a span of 24 hours and will be dealing with hot temperatures with Saturday’s green flag temperatures expecting to hit around 90 degrees.
“I love it. I think the hotter and the more difficult it is, the better for me. That’s what I train for. I train for difficult situations. I train to be able to have that edge on people that don’t. Unfortunately I know that a lot of the guys are doing the same. I used to I think have a bigger edge on them,” said Kanaan.
“To be honest, they had two extremely hot races already, so they’re more accustomed than I am. Although I can try to simulate the heat in the car, driving the car, it’s what you’re going to feel.”
By talking with some of the guys, Kanaan is aware of their complaints about being hot inside their cars. However, it hasn’t stopped the 2004 NTT IndyCar Series champion from being ready as physical conditions has never been lackluster.
“I’m not worried. Obviously I’m cautious and I have to take the precautions because it is going to be extremely stressful,” said Kanaan. “When you talk about the heat and a road course or a street course, you talk about the heat and fatigue physically. Here is mentally. I found throughout my career the physical fatigue, I think you can manage well.
“For me the mental fatigue, it’s really tough. It’s a lot tougher. You kind of not have trained for that. Your body, you can lift weights, do cardio, this and that. Your mind… I’m expecting to be extremely drained after the two races, but I’m ready.”
Both races held on Friday and Saturday will begin at 8:30 p.m. EST on NBCSN. Kanaan finished 10th in last year’s race which marked his eighth top-10 in 13 starts.