By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
MADISON, Ill. — A superb turnaround performance by Tony Kanaan led to his first NTT IndyCar Series podium since Texas Motor Speedway in 2017.
After qualifying deep in the field in 20th, the 44-year-old Brazilian showcased what track position can do to a car during Saturday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
This was a result of pit strategy getting him up to second after a Lap 192 crash in Turn 4 by Sebastien Bourdais, resulting in an excellent position of contending for his first win since Auto Club Speedway in 2014.
“I think we were strong. We had a great strategy,” Kanaan on the strategy. “The Chevy and the fuel mileage we had, very, very good fuel mileage that actually got us to the point that we got lucky with that yellow. Once we had the track position, the car was fast and we were able to perform.”
On the final restart, Kanaan’s bid of ending the long drought would have to wait another race as Takuma Sato’s solid restart led him to get away from the 2004 series champion.
Kanaan tried to hold off Ed Carpenter for second, but with two laps remaining, he lost the battle after getting a bit loose.
During the post-race press conference, Kanaan commented on what he was anticipating on the restart against Sato and had hoped traffic would play a role that would’ve favored him. It wasn’t meant to be as everyone dealt with this very issue, leading Carpenter taking second away.
“Sato got a run on me on the restart. I think when he took off, obviously he was behind, people know how I restart, he got a little bit of an edge,” Kanaan said. “After that I had to measure and decide what I want to do. Do I need to attack? Did I have anything to attack? If I was going to keep it in the podium, which is a great result for us.
“Once he took off and opened a little bit of a lead, I said, I’m going to sit here and see what happens. I was waiting for him to hit traffic. Unfortunately, when we all hit traffic, we all got in trouble. I got a little bit loose. Ed got me. It was one of those things.”
With first and second gone, it meant Kanaan had to play an even stronger game of defense to hold off a hard charging Santino Ferrucci, who had a strong draft to make his move but Kanaan wisely went low to deny the move.
Ferrucci made another attempt heading into Turn 3 but had to back off, giving Kanaan the advantage and came home in third, his best finish since joining A.J. Foyt Racing last season. His previous best of his 31 attempts in the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet was sixth at Toronto last year.
It’s also the team’s first podium since Sato, who went on to win the race, finished second in the second Belle Isle race in 2015.
Kanaan was simply pleased having a result that hasn’t seen from he and the team in recent memory. This boast of confidence has proven that he’s still got what it takes in the world of Indy car heading into Portland International Raceway next weekend.
“Great result for us. Great weekend. We’ve overcome a lot of adversities throughout the year,” Kanaan said. “I’ve been hearing a lot of things, good and bad. Some people think we shouldn’t be doing this. It’s a great night for us and it paid off.
“When I joined A.J. Foyt Racing, I wanted to make this team better. We’ve been struggling quite a bit. This is a great night for us and the boys did a great job. It proves that it’s making us stronger. A result like this is a huge boost for everybody.”
With the season coming down to the final two races at Portland and Laguna Seca, the changes the team made during the off-season, including the return of Don Halliday and the addition of Scott Harner right before the season began at St. Petersburg in March, has shown some progression.
Now having scored three top-10 runs in the last four races, Kanaan thanked the organization from the personnel to his primary sponsor on a job well done.
“Things are happening. They take time. We do have a great organization,” Kanaan said. “All credit to Larry (Foyt). It’s nothing that we haven’t asked Larry to do that he hasn’t done for us. It’s on us. It’s on me. It’s on my engineer. It’s on Harner. It’s on the entire team.
“ABC (Supply) provided us every single tool with the sponsorship for us to perform and we haven’t done it. Slowly we turn it around. We brought Don Halliday back, which is a guy my first year here in America, ’96, he was engineering myself at Tasman. He came in to do some damage control. It’s been great.
“Yes, it was a good result. Obviously let’s not get ahead of the game. We still have two races to go, still have a lot of work to do. I’ll take it, enjoy it tonight and go back to work tomorrow.”