By David Morgan, Associate Editor
INDIANAPOLIS – Tony Kanaan came into Sunday’s 106th running of the Indianapolis 500 as a driver with nothing to lose.
As a part of a five-car stable for Chip Ganassi Racing, in a special one-off appearance to pilot the No. 1 Honda, it was win or go home for the Brazilian driver and when the checkered flag flew, he nearly pulled it off.
After charging up through the top-10 following his last pit stop, Kanaan settled into third-place, but was too far back to be within striking distance of the top-two. Just when it looked as if the race would be a run-away for his Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson a late caution and subsequent red flag set up a two lap dash for the Borg-Warner Trophy.
Kanaan had his chance.
“It’s going to be all or nothing,” Kanaan said during the red flag. “I’ve done it before, so I have nothing to lose. Not going for the championship. A second-place today wouldn’t do me any good, so they better be ready.”
When the green flag dropped for the final time, Kanaan held his own behind Ericsson and Pato O’Ward in second as they duked it out for the lead, but just didn’t quite have enough to be able to get past them by the time the checkered flag flew.
Even though he would have loved to bring home a second Indy 500 win, Kanaan was ecstatic about finishing on the podium, knowing he gave it his all along the way.
“It was a cat and mouse day,” Kanaan said. “We kept pretending we were not fast enough all day. When it was time to go, we actually went.
“I don’t know. I said that two days ago that I think that race, it was going to be played between my teammates. I don’t know. If you’re going to go and say, If Dixon didn’t have the hiccup in the pits, this and that, I’m not going to sit here and say I was going to win the race. I had a car to do it for sure…
“Great month. One-off race for me. I can’t thank enough the team, the Legion. It was a great month not just because they sponsoring a car but for the great cause, Be the One cause, trying to save veterans’ lives, trying to get the mental health word out there.
“I’m proud. Sitting in the car when the red flag was there, hearing the crowd cheering for me, this place never stops amazing me. It’s a great feeling.
“I left it all out there.”
He added that the finish also brought some emotions, as Sunday’s race could have been his last Indy 500 start. For now, Kanaan noted that he is unsure of whether he’ll have a ride to make a return next year.
“I was very emotional on the cool-down lap, talking to the team. I know my days are numbered. I have a plan, like I said. I think next year will be probably, if I can make it happen, will be really the last one.
“As of right now, this was the last one.”
While the future may be unknown, Kanaan is ready to make another run at the Indy 500 should the call come.
“I think it’s such a — I cannot even say because I’m going to curse,” he said. “It’s so lame that people think we’re old at 47, we can’t drive anymore. It’s crap. So, yeah, I’m ready. Ready to do it again.”
Asked about Kanaan’s future while celebrating yet another Indy 500 win for his organization, team owner Chip Ganassi seemed game to keep Kanaan in the fold for another attempt.
“In his retirement we’ve made him the vice president of entertainment,” Ganassi said with a laugh. “And he can drive, too, yeah. He can still win this race. You saw today with his performance. Led a little bit.
“Kanaan is a veteran. He’s a wily veteran. He knows his way around this place, no question. So, we’re not throwing him out yet.”