By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
One last ride for 2004 NTT IndyCar Series and 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan.
The 22-year veteran announced Thursday that 2020 will be his swan song in the sport as he’ll run all five oval races, beginning with the 104th Indy 500 Presented by Gainbridge May 24.
His other four races will be at Texas Motor Speedway (June 6), Richmond Raceway (June 27), Iowa Speedway (July 18) and finally, his last start being at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway August 22.
Like the previous two seasons, the sport’s Iron Man will pilot the No. 14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet.
While 2020 will be his last year in Indy car competition, there’s still a chance he’ll do one-offs at Indianapolis and only the 500-mile spectacle.
When looking back at his Indy car career that began in 1998, the 45-year-old Brazilian is proud of making his racing dreams come true.
“I look back at all these years racing in INDYCAR and the first thing that comes to my mind is how fortunate I’ve been to be in the top level of the sport for this long. I walked into this sport as a 23-year-old with lots of hopes and dreams and I can say, without a doubt, that I accomplished everything I wanted,” Kanaan said.
“I’m 45 now; I have fans, wins, podiums, records, a championship and an Indy 500. I feel and know I can still do this for a long time, but like everything else in life there is also a cycle in racing. For a long time, I’ve been asked when I would retire, and my answer was always the same: The day I wake up in the morning and feel like I can’t do this anymore, that’s when I’m going to retire.”
Kanaan added that it was time to move his dedication from mostly racing, that he’s given so much in his life, to family time. Thus, Kanaan will approach these five races with a campaign known as “TK Last Lap.”
“Unfortunately, there are other things one should take into consideration when planning the future, and probably the most important one is what are the options that are available.
“For 2020, my best option was to race the five ovals of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, the sport that gave me so much and that I will always love. I’m not done with racing, that’s for sure. I decided that this year I would step back a bit and enjoy these five races, have time for my family (wife Lauren, sons Leonardo, Max and Deco, and daughter Nina) and my fans, and also give back to the sponsors that always stood by me.”
With this announcement, Kanaan’s streak of 317 starts dating back to Portland in 2001 will come to an end at the season opener in St. Petersburg March 15.
In 377 starts, which is second all-time behind Mario Andretti’s record of 407 starts, Kanaan has won 17 times, led the field to the green flag 15 times and was on the podium 78 times.
Before establishing himself as one of the top drivers on the grid, Kanaan won the 1997 Indy Lights title which landed him in a CART ride with Tasman Motorsports the following year, winning Rookie of the Year honors.
Kanaan scored his maiden win at Michigan International Speedway in 1999 after his No. 44 McDonald’s Forsythe Racing machine passed Max Papis, who ran out of fuel on the last lap.
Five years later, Kanaan had one of the strongest title seasons in Indy car history with Andretti Autosport (then known as Andretti Green). In 16 starts, he completed every single lap, finished in the top-five 15 times with three of those being wins.
Finally in 2013, after 11 previous shortcomings, Kanaan won the Indianapolis 500 for KV Racing. To this day, it’s the fastest Indy 500 at an average speed of 187.433 mph, and the most competitive race in race history as the race lead changed 68 times.
Once Gateway, the sight of his most recent podium last year, is over. What will be next for Kanaan?
Time will ultimately tell, much like who will pilot the No. 14 Chevrolet in the other 12 races (road and street courses) as the full lineup will be announced at a later date.
“I’d love to still be involved with INDYCAR to some degree,” Kanaan on his post-2020 plans. “I’ve also had offers to race in a number of different series, but that’s not my priority at the moment.”