By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
INDIANAPOLIS – After 26 seasons and 389 NTT IndyCar Series starts, highlighted with a championship in 2004 and a win in the 2013 Indianapolis 500, Tony Kanaan called it a career in open wheel racing after Sunday’s 107th Indianapolis 500.
In a one-off ride in the No. 66 Chevrolet for Arrow McLaren, Kanaan had a noble 200-lap race, closing his chapter with a 16th place finish and bidding farewell to his fans by doing a cool off lap salute afterwards.
While not the way Kanaan would’ve wanted his 22nd and final Indy 500 race to have gone, there’s still plenty to celebrate for a stellar career that began in 1998. Even having one last battle with fellow Brazilian Helio Castroneves. Fittingly, on the last lap of the race.
“It was either going to be a win or anything apart from the win we were going to celebrate regardless,” said Kanaan.
“I think I would do a disgrace to almost 400,000 people that were there that made me feel the way they did to say I’m sad. I had a laugh.
“Helio and I battling for 15th and 16th on the last lap like we’re going for the lead. It was like, ‘who’s playing pranks with us?’
“We both went side by side on the backstretch after the checker and we saluted with each other, and I just told him actually I dropped a tear because of that, and he said, I did, too.
“It was a good day for me, man. What can I say? We cried on the grid.
“Not the result that we wanted. I went really aggressive on the downforce to start the race. It was wrong. Then I added downforce towards the end of the race and it was wrong. So it was just one of those days.”
At one point during the race, Kanaan gave fans a moment to never forget as his No. 66 Chevrolet went through the grass to get by Takuma Sato and Colton Herta.
“Props to Doug Boles. Grass was spot on,” said Kanaan. Whoever cuts that is pretty good.”
Even third place finisher Santino Ferrucci gave Kanaan props for his off-road excursion.
“Dude, that pass is insane. I’m watching it right now,” Ferrucci said in a post-race exchange with Kanaan.
“The grass?” Kanaan asked in reply.
“Hell yeah! Nice!” Ferrucci added.
“Got to make it exciting, right?” Kanaan noted in conclusion.
Despite Kanaan’s IndyCar career being over, and folks thinking he’ll be back, one thing is certain about how he felt about finishing his last race — the emotions.
Plus, having 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson driving his car in next year’s 500.
“Grateful, relieved, happy, sad at the same time. There are so many emotions right now,” said Kanaan.
“But one thing is for certain. I think I sat here three years ago and I said I’m not retiring because I don’t want to race in an empty stand, and what they did for me today puts an end of me coming back here. Because that experience right there, I don’t think I will have it ever again.
“In a way, finishing 16th will take everybody’s idea out, ‘Oh, you finished third, you should do it again!’ Kyle Larson is driving that car next year. Hopefully I will be around. There are some things that —
“You better be around, man,” Ferrucci interrupted.
“I will be around. And he’s going to hire me. I’m going to be his helmet handler,” Kanaan replied.
“This is it. And the emotions are just there. I cried 400 times. It was emotional.”