INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Kanaan’s most emotional moment in his illustrious INDYCAR career came at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013 when he finally captured the prestigious but elusive Indianapolis 500 crown.
On Thursday at the world-renowned motorsports facility with the Borg-Warner Trophy by his side, yet another emotional scene transpired for the ever-popular 45-year-old Brazilian entering his 23rd season of competition. Kanaan, an Indy 500 winner and 2004 series champion, announced that the upcoming 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season will be his final as a primary driver.
Kanaan is set to compete in the five oval races of the NTT INDYCAR Series season driving the No. 14 Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing. He is scheduled to begin his final campaign, which will be called the “TK Last Lap,” with the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 24. Kanaan will then run Saturday night races at Texas Motor Speedway (June 6), Richmond Raceway (June 27), Iowa Speedway (July 18) and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Aug. 22) to close out his final season.
He did leave open the possibility of returning for a future Indianapolis 500, but not for another partial or full NTT INDYCAR SERIES season.
“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.
“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.”
Kanaan has amassed 17 wins, 15 pole positions and 78 podium finishes in his 377 career starts, which rank second all-time only to the 407 starts made by the legendary Mario Andretti. He also is the “Ironman” of the sport, holding the active record for most consecutive starts at 317 that began at Portland International Raceway in 2001.
His INDYCAR career began in 1998 with Tasman Motorsports after capturing the Indy Lights championship for the organization the previous year. He achieved success quickly at the top rung of the sport, winning CART Rookie-of-the-Year honors with Tasman that year. In his second season, he earned his first pole position at Long Beach in April and then his inaugural win at Michigan International Speedway in July.
One of his major career accomplishments came with Andretti Green Racing in 2004 when he captured the IRL IndyCar Series championship. He won three races, recorded top-five finishes in 15 of the 16 races and completed every lap on the season en route to the title.
The most significant moment came in 2013 with KV Racing Technology when he won the Indy 500 in his 12th attempt. The average speed of the race – 187.433 mph – remains the fastest Indianapolis 500 in history, and the 68 lead changes also remains a standing record. Kanaan has made 18 Indy 500 starts, with a win, pole position (2005), eight top-five finishes and having led 361 laps.
Kanaan has driven for seven teams in his career, beginning with Tasman Motorsports his rookie season. He followed with Forsythe Racing (1999 when Tasman was sold to Gerald Forsythe), Mo Nunn Racing (2000-02), Andretti Green Racing (2003-10), KV Racing Technology (2011-13), Chip Ganassi Racing (2014-17) and AJ Foyt Racing (2018-present).
In addition to his INDYCAR accomplishments, he added two prestigious sports car championships to his resume. He won the LMP2 division of the 12 Hours of Sebring in 2007 and then captured the overall race victory of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2015.
So, what does the future hold for Kanaan?
“For the future, who knows?” he said. “I’d love to still be involved with INDYCAR to some degree. I’ve also had offers to race in a number of different series, but that’s not my priority at the moment.”
Kanaan will be promoting the hashtag “TKLastLap” during the course of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, which opens Sunday, March 15 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. For announcements and updates on Kanaan’s next steps, be sure to follow his social media channels – @tkanaan on Instagram and @tonykanaan on Twitter and Facebook.