A Good Problem to Have

In the offseason, it’s rare that I write on the same topic twice in a row. However, Nathan Brown of The Indianapolis Star wrote an article yesterday afternoon that made my Wednesday post incorrect and obsolete.

Contrary to what we had been told was just a formality, Tony Kanaan has not agreed to drive a fourth car for Arrow McLaren SP (AMSP) in the 2023 Indianapolis 500. He acknowledges that they are one of the teams he is talking to, but there are others.

Although the article acknowledged that nothing had been announced yet, Marshall Pruett seemed confident enough to put up an article about it this past Friday. However, in the Star article, Kanaan said he was having conversations with Chip Ganassi about running the 500 with them – the same team he has run the previous two 500s with, including an impressive third-place finish this past May.

Apparently Kanaan, who will turn forty-eight in December, is still having serious discussions with four teams – AMSP, Ganassi, Dreyer & Reinbold and Rahal Letterman Lanigan – regarding next year’s Indianapolis 500, which would be his twenty-second consecutive start. That would put him behind only one driver for consecutive starts – AJ Foyt, who holds the record with thirty-five consecutive starts from 1958-1992. Most records are meant to be broken, but that is a record that I feel will never, ever be broken.

There are currently only seven drivers in history with twenty-two or more total Indianapolis 500 starts: Helio Castroneves (22 and counting), George Snider (22), Johnny Rutherford (24), Gordon Johncock (24), Al Unser (27), Mario Andretti (29) and Foyt (35). Assuming Kanaan indeed makes that twenty-second start, he will surpass Gary Bettenhausen, who he had been tied with at twenty-one.

Who would’ve thought that a soon-to-be forty-eight year-old driver would command so much attention for the Indianapolis 500? It is not undeserved. Through twenty-one starts, Kanaan has an average starting position of 10.1 and an average finish of 12.38. While those numbers don’t blow you away; remember that for years, Kanaan was compared to Lloyd Ruby for having hard luck in the Indianapolis 500. His teammate, Marco Andretti, took him out in Turn Three, on Lap 105, while Kanaan was leading. The following year, he had a half-shaft failure while running third on Lap 97. He suddenly veered right into the outside wall on the backstretch, ending what had been a promising day.

Those are just two examples of the many bad days that Kanaan had at IMS. But he had many good days too, but none better than when he won in 2013, when he was not considered one of the contenders.

While Kanaan was always a good qualifier, qualifying in the Top-Ten fourteen times, he actually provided the biggest thrills when he would qualify near the back. Tony Kanaan was always famous for passing on the outside on starts and restarts. He was always able to make his car work on the outside when others couldn’t. Either that, or he had the guts to put his car up there when others wouldn’t.

Even in his mid-forties, Kanaan has shown he still knows his way around the famous 2.5-mile oval at 16th and Georgetown. Yes, I know Georgetown Road no longer intersects with 16th Street, but you all know what I’m talking about. In three of his last four starts, Kanaan has finished in the Top-Ten, including the last two when he finished tenth and third respectively.

In the Nathan Brown article, Kanaan says that he was approached about a potential ride in the 2023 500, while he was still on pit lane just after finishing third in this year’s Indianapolis 500. Although he says nothing has been agreed on yet, Kanaan is very confident he will be racing again in next year’s 500.

Just like his friend and co-worker, the late Robin Miller, Marshall Pruett is not everyone’s cup of tea. But like a friend of mine said when he texted me Thursday afternoon; “Like him or not, Marshall is rarely wrong”.

Personally, I don’t think he’s wrong here, either. The small details may not have been ironed out, but I think Tony Kanaan and Zak Brown haven agreement in place. Brown is probably upset that Pruett found out and reported it, before they announced it – but that’s what reporters do. If I was a betting man (and I thank God every day that I’m not), I would still bet a large sum of money on Kanaan running next year’s Indianapolis 500 with Arrow McLaren SP.

But I also fully believe that Tony Kanaan has fielded a lot of offers the past few months to put his in someone’s car for next May. To be almost 48 years-old and have several teams to choose from that want your services for the Indianapolis 500? That’s a good problem to have.

George Phillips

5 Responses to “A Good Problem to Have”

  1. Would like to see him at DRR if anywhere, they have good speed and that is a team where a veteran presence can’t hurt at all.

  2. It’s good for the fans too. Hope TK is around for many more years.

    • James T Suelq Says:

      I think Tony will drive for McClaren in 23. Don’t you miss Robin Miller ,I do. He for sure was most of the time right..

      • Unless Ganassi has a spot for him and offers similar money. I could see Ganassi being the preferred seat because he has experience with the team but if McClaren offers a huge paycheck that might be an incentive too large to pass.

  3. I hope that Ganassi puts Kanaan in a fast, Honda-powered car.

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