MADISON, Ill — This isn’t how Tony Kanaan envisioned his NTT IndyCar Series career ending. In what could be his 384th and final start a 19th place effort in Sunday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 from the World Wide Technology Raceway wasn’t a way to go out.
“Well, I have to be realistic, right? For my liking, 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,” Kanaan said following Sunday’s race.
Kanaan, hopes this isn’t it. Back in January, he announced that the 2020 Indy Car season would be his last. While everyone took it that he was retiring, he said later that he wished “TK’s Last Lap” was worded differently because he would be willing to do future races still. He’s just not going to race full time anymore.
Well, with a pandemic hitting this past spring and remaining around throughout this season, Kanaan’s possible farewell tour was anything but. Some races, including last Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 and the season opener at Texas had no fans. Other races likes this weekend’s doubleheader in Gateway and last month’s at Iowa had minimal fans.
For a fan favorite, this is no way to go out.
“Today I approached the race as was my last race,” Kanaan continued. “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.”
Kanaan now wants to come back in some capacity next year. But, he notes it’s going to be a challenge to do so. It’s going to be a challenge to find a program together with partners and sponsors to make it work.
“I can assure you, like, when I announced this thing in February, I’m not coming back a full season, that’s for sure,” said the popular Brazilian driver. “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.
“I have not talked to any teams yet. I actually went back to my sponsors. We set up some meetings for this week. 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. 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.”
Kanaan said he’s not going to sit back and wait. He hopes within the next couple of weeks, he will know how realistic next year will be. For now, this was it.
Kanaan, earned a top 10 on Saturday but to finish 19th on Sunday was not what he was expecting out of his No. 14 Chevrolet.
“Yeah, I mean, yesterday was actually a pretty decent result for us,” Kanaan said of his weekend on track at Gateway. “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.
“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.”
As to what his favorite memories are of this season, Kanaan said just how improved his team went from Texas until now.
“I mean, the team has improved quite a bit,” he said. “Every race I ran, one way or the other, we were in the top 10. Some of them we didn’t finish there, but we were running up there. I think we improved quite a bit. I don’t think I was that consistent last year, the whole year, even doing a full season.
“The highlight I think was Indy when 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.
“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.”