In Search Of The Tony Kanaan Hat


By Susan Scruggs

Note from George – As I take off today to take care of a personal family matter; frequent contributor to this site, Susan Scruggs, offers her always unique spin on some of the “other” topics of the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. Thanks to Susan for helping me out. I’ll return here on Monday January 30 – GP.

I think of myself as a typical IndyCar fan, I don’t know the engines, the nuances of each car, or what more front wing looks like–but I do know what I look for when I go to a race. We budget to attend the Indy 500 each year. Included in my budget has always been for “incidentals.” The hat we must purchase every year and the die-cast car—its part of our tradition.

I remember the days when the merchandise trailers lined the entrance to the track from the infield. Every year there seems to be less merchandise to choose from. Last year we almost made George lose it as we insisted on him dropping us off at the off-track merchandise trailers in search of that elusive Tony Kanaan hat. My son had quite a collection of racing hats, but still no Kanaan/KV racing hat. A few days before Christmas, I was still searching for a Tony Kanaan hat. I found a KV/Lotus hat on their web site and thought that would suffice, and after all, it was green—the color we most associate with Kanaan. I feel certain that it will have an autograph on it the next time we hit a track. I’ll give it to KV Racing–I ordered the hat a few days before Christmas, expecting to give my son an “after Christmas present” but to my delight (and his) there was the box, containing the hat sitting on my porch on Christmas eve. What a great surprise—hats off to KV Racing!

I’m sure you remember me going on and on about my son’s extensive Andretti-Green die-cast car collection. He owns every livery of their cars since he became a fan. We have all the special cars; the Kanaan Hulk car, the Marco Andretti Indiana Jones car, and the Star Wars Clone Wars car, as well as the standard liveries. The pickings have been slim in recent years. A few years ago, the cars shrank to 1:24 as Hot Wheels took over the die-cast cars for IndyCar, that was the year we stopped purchasing the cars. The next year they went back to the Greenlight 1:18 scale.

Since many of the products I design for work are manufactured in China, I do understand the lead time necessary to produce these cars. As sponsorships become like musical chairs before the season begins, I’m sure it becomes almost impossible to put any of the cars in production—especially when it takes about 3 months to get them here on the slow boat from China. I remember the year Marco Andretti ran the Indy 500 in the Indiana Jones car. They began manufacturing the cars as soon as the Blockbuster sponsorship was secured and shipped a limited number of them to be available for the Indy 500. Much to our dismay, those were snapped up by half the fans that attended opening day, many looking for a quick buck on ebay. My son was so disappointed the day we arrived at the speedway and there were none to be had anywhere. We did see them selling for upwards of $150 on ebay. Patience is a virtue, as we got one several weeks later by ordering directly from Andretti Green.

Then there was the year that he made his car purchase at the Indy 500—I only budget for one car a year and try to strictly adhere to it. That was the year Dan Wheldon won in his Klein Tools car. My son rushed to the merchandise trailers after the race and begged me to get the die-cast car for him. Since I was broke by the end of the race, I told him he could buy it if he had the money, which I knew he did not. Call me evil, but I try not to spoil him too much. He was disappointed, but I told him if he hung on to his birthday money (a crisp $50 bill that he conveniently left at home in Nashville), we would see if they had it at the Nashville race. ]. If you know young teenagers, you know how hard it is for them to hang on to money for a week, much less 2 months. When the Nashville race rolled around a few months later, he still had that $50 bill and happily paid for his own Klein Tools car. I’m so grateful now that he had the discipline to hold on to that money. In typical Dan Wheldon style, my son had it autographed the very same day.

I’m looking forward to purchasing a car in the new body style this year—that is if they are available and have not shrunk them back down to 1:24 from the 1:18 size we like. We don’t really care how much they cost–traditions are priceless. Lately it seems like the cars are simply retreads from years before.

Isn’t it great advertising for the sport (and the sponsors) to see people walking around in their racing hats and shirts? I have had several people comment on my Pippa Mann shirt, but I had to order it from England. I realize sponsors change, but the drivers don’t. I look forward to seeing what will be available this year. Who will take the reins since the Danica merchandise machine has gone? I’m not knocking Danica–her marketing team knew they had a moneymaker and used it to their best advantage. What merchandise will fill the void left by her? Will the trailers simply be gone—another tradition gone by the wayside?

As fans, we want to proudly wear apparel that shows what driver we love. It is not just a shirt, a car or a hat–it is a memory—a priceless memory in some cases. I like the fact that my son still wants to get a hat or a car. It reminds me of when he was little and the countless cars we bought. There’s something about a 21 year old who still wants to buy a “toy” car. Merchandisers, sponsors and drivers—I’m putting you on notice–if you make it, we will buy.

Maybe we will even find that elusive Tony Kanaan hat.

12 Responses to “In Search Of The Tony Kanaan Hat”

  1. Bent Wickerbill Says:

    Now that Danica has left the Andretti Autosport fold, one might actually have a shot at obtaining merch for the remaining drivers @ AA…
    As you say Danica dominated merch sales while here and I recall the year following her arrival at Andretti Green Racing, the sign atop the AGR merch trailer being changed from AGR to just DANICA…

  2. Indycar merchandise in general looks like the 70% Off rack at Kohl’s. I’d imagine you’ll see as many Danica shirts this year as anything else. Considering the series is sponsored by a clothing manufacturer and led by the “fastest marketing man in the world,” the souvenir/fan shirt seems to have been given little thought.

  3. dzgroundedeffects Says:

    I will say the clothing offerings have been better since IZOD came on and I refer specifically to the Retro Indy 500 t-shirts and the 60s styled jackets, but the driver-related mdse is (and has typically been) sparse and has not been very well done. I won’t ever buy the loud, garish screen printed white t-shirt with cartoonish graphics and expansive use of color and speed lines. One of my favorites last year was the Lotus 82 t-shirt but could find it nowhere.

    • billytheskink Says:

      We can agree to disagree on buying loud, garish screen printed white t-shirts with cartoonish graphics and expansive use of color and speed lines. Great description, by the way. I happen to like these kinds of shirts, but, you know, different strokes and so on…

      I would like to point out though, that these kinds of t-shirts have been a staple of racing merchandise for 30+ years. For that reason, I would argue, every driver of note in the series should at least be featured on such a shirt. When they are not, things are not good.

      I bought an AJ Allmendinger t-shirt at a ChampCar race in 2006. It had his name and number printed small on the front and a huge close-up picture of his helmet in the cockpit on the back. Classier than your average Buckshot Jones t-shirt, yes, but who the heck knew who it represented? It was the ONLY Allmendinger shirt available… things were not good.

  4. The Greenlight and Hot Wheels cars seemed to turn into a fiasco when it became difficult to get them at Target. I am also sorry that Carousel 1 has ceased operations because they made the very bext 1/18 diecast Indy cars on the market.

    As for apparel, the best is from IMS. The IMS shirts, jackets media and gifts are excellent. However, INDYCAR needs a reboot on their offerings.

  5. Being from Florida, the St Pete race is a must each year. I am like you, always trying to buy a shirt or hat, but there are slim pickings, indeed. The Danica trailer has always been loaded, but other than that, there is very little to pick from.

    I’ve got a lot of favorites, in fact, there aren’t many drivers I don’t like, so I try to get just general INDYCAR merchandise. Where is it? I recently found a few Izod shirts on Ebay, but that’s about it.

    Bring up the website for any team and try to buy something. There’s nothing there. Someone is missing the boat.

    Randy, are you listening?

    • Bent Wickerbill Says:

      Actually, Indycar/Izod had a tent full of merch on the north east side of the main grandstand at St Pete last year… Lots of good stuff too…

  6. I have Wheldon’s 2005 car as well, plus I spent waaaaaaay more than I should have on his car from last year’s 500. They are both going to stay in their boxes but are prominently displayed in the basement.

    I really wish that I had known just how limited quanties of the Carousel cars were. I saw them in the gift shop at the IMS museum many times but always assumed there would be time to shop and try to sneak one or two, or ten, past my wife. Sadly time ran out and now they’re only available on eBay. Those are beautiful models.

    It bugs me to no end that there are so few current cars available in 1/18. Ryan Hunter-Reay didn’t even qualify for the 500, but there are zillions of die-cast models of his car in the gift shop.

  7. billytheskink Says:

    From attending races the last couple of years, it seems the only teams that have souvenir trailers anymore are Penske, Ganassi, and Danica/Andretti. After that, there is the IndyCar series souvenir tent.

    My verdict is that I can generally find what I’m looking for (t-shirt, polo shirt, die cast) but not always in a variety that catches my fancy. Most drivers of note at least have a t-shirt, two at the most for every driver not named Danica. While this limits my options, I just like to think of it as making my decision easier.

    I will be looking to buy a couple of t-shirts this season. Rahal, because he’s my favorite driver, and Andretti, because I didn’t get a Jeremy Mayfield t-shirt the last time RC Cola was involved in major motorsports. If there is only on of each to choose from, I can live with that.

  8. The most important items for me to have in the 70s and 80s was models of the cars, exactly s they appeared on Indianapolis 500 (the Speedway frowned or the use of “Indy” back then) race day.
    Such items didn’t exist. There were plastic model kits available for the best known cars, but they rarely matched how the cars actually appeared on race day.
    I built them myself. I build probably the only model ever or Roger McCluskey’s 1968 G.C. Murphy car that finished 28th. I had to hand letter the car.
    It took me anywhere from two to eight hours, working every day form more than six months to build Mario Andretti’s 1969 winning Hawk, but I did it. See page 169 (top right) of the 1978 Indianapolis 50 Yearbook by Carl Hungness.
    From 1964 until about 1975, building those models was how I “participated” in the 500.
    By 1975 I was a veteran photographer covering the race full-time each year and my model building ended.
    Each person who wants to feel connected to INDYCAR has their own way to connecting. that was my way.

    • My son got frustrated one year and found a IndyCar model and built it (he hand painted Kanaan livery on it, of course). It came out pretty well. THAT is a lost art–model building. Thanks for reminding me of the days of the do-it-yourself, which required a lot more skill and discipline.

  9. Thanks for bringing this to light, Susan. Randy Bernard has his hands full with scheduling problems and the like, but he should also realize that merchandise is important to current fans and potential new fans alike. This is an important issue that needs to be addressed. Will there be any new die-cast cars representing the DW12 by Indy? My guess is no.

    Tell George to get off his duff and quit slacking. Good job keeping his seat warm.

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