By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
After 23 seasons of top level Indy car racing, Tony Kanaan had his final confirmed NTT IndyCar Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Sunday.
Following a season-high ninth-place result the day before, Kanaan felt the love from his A.J. Foyt Racing crew and many from the paddock before strapping into the No. 14 Big Machine Vodka Chevrolet one last time.
— IndyCar on NBC (@IndyCaronNBC) August 30, 2020
When the dust finally settled 200 laps later under caution, it proved to be a rather quiet swan song for the 2004 series champion due to his 19th place finish, a lap behind race winner Josef Newgarden.
“Yesterday was actually a pretty decent result for us. Today was a bit frustrating. I think with the way the race went, I think everybody has some room to complain. It was honestly quite a boring race, this one,” said Kanaan.
“It is what’s. I had a pretty good day yesterday, so it’s nice to see some fans in the stands supporting us. Not the way I want to end my last race, but it is what it is.”
Far from an ideal result to cap off the Gateway doubleheader it may be, but Kanaan certainly treated it as if it was his 384th and final start. Something the fans and himself included doesn’t hope becomes the case as the Brazilian currently has zero plans, let alone sponsorships for the 2021 season.
While his #TKLastLap Tour wasn’t the way he wanted it to be due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion knew he had to be realistic about the final race weekend.
“I think it’s not fair that I would go out this way. It’s not fair for my fans. It’s not fair for me. But it’s easier said than done,” said Kanaan. “Today I approached the race as was my last race. I have nothing for next year. I have no sponsor. I have no team. Everybody that was involved with me knew about my decision. Obviously I changed my mind.
“It’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be a challenge to try to see if I can put something together to do the same what I did this year.
“I can assure you, like, when I announced this thing in February, I’m not coming back a full season, that’s for sure. If I can put a deal together to do the five ovals again, that’s what I’m going to work on. As of now, I’m done.”
Should a return happen in 2021, Kanaan is already talking with his current sponsors with plans of having meetings this week. He also knows that certain talks need to be done right away because doing it later won’t bode well on his odds of extending his tour.
“I think the best approach was going to be let’s see what kind of money I can raise, then I can go talk to the teams. Obviously a lot of people have heard what I’m doing. My boss actually approached me to talk this weekend,” said Kanaan. “Things are going to develop pretty quick. I think all my sponsors are onboard as far as wanting to talk to see what extent they can do something, if they can do something.
“I would say I’m not going to wait till the end of the season. The next two weeks I probably will know something, then we’ll start talking. But we’ll see. It’s going to be really hard.”
Even if things fall through, Kanaan doesn’t have much to complain about his career and this season alone where he felt Foyt’s camp have improved quite a bit with last Sunday’s Indy 500 being the highlight of 2020.
“We started all the way back there, were running in the top 10 pretty much all day until we had an issue on the last stop. I would say it was a very consistent season, if I can call that a season, with the five races that I did,” said Kanaan.
“It was nothing like I had planned. I had a lot of plans to enjoy with the sponsors, the fans, everybody else. I would say the highlight was just to be a part of it.
“I think after 23 years I feel pretty fortunate to be able to do this. It was my 384th start in INDYCAR, third of all time. I have no room to complain. Second of all time. They keep correcting me. That’s how much I know of my stats (laughter).
“I had a good run. I made good friends. I appreciate just to be part of it. If I’m able to move forward, fine. If not, it is what it is. I had a good run.”
Thank you guys. It has been a amazing journey. Love you all https://t.co/42lT2mdrNr
— Tony Kanaan (@TonyKanaan) August 30, 2020