INDIANAPOLIS — Tony Kanaan hasn’t been in an NTT INDYCAR Series machine since last August. However, the rust quickly fell off on Thursday afternoon when he strapped into his No. 1 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.
After turning just 22 laps on Wednesday in the abbreviated sessions, once the rains subsided and the track dried on Thursday, Kanaan was back at it. He turned 72 laps in the session and found himself third among 31 drivers on the speed charts with a speed of 228.767 mph.
“For us, we took it really slowly,” Kanaan said. “We’re a new team as far as my car. We had to just get everybody together in the groove.
“Obviously my teammates did a pretty good job giving me something to start. That was pretty decent. It was an easy day really. I think we had a lot of information gather. The guys went through it. We were just trying — a lot of my guys are working on the IMSA side this year. Just to get really in the groove, get everybody working together.
“I’m comfortable in the car. It had been, what, nine months I hadn’t run. Yesterday was a little — took me a little bit, especially with the conditions. I was like, Whoa. Today just felt like home.
“So good day for us. Obviously lap times, nice to be here, but it doesn’t really matter.”
The thing is, while his car number may say No. 1, if you add a 0 to it you actually can say it’s quite like the time he drove the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for the team from 2014 though 2017.
“Obviously the guys are working with me, I mean, half of them worked on my 10 car when I was at Ganassi. We just took it easy. We did a lot of race work, like everybody else,” he said.
While he has been away from the cockpit in the series for eight months, it’s not like he’s been fully away. Kanaan, has been with the team a lot in that span. While he hasn’t actually raced, he’s been a big part of what Ganassi is still going.
“It wasn’t that I was away from the team for eight months. I hadn’t driven the INDYCAR for eight, nine months, but I’ve been in the team twice a week pretty much every week,” said the popular Brazilian driver.
He also notes that it’s not like he’s not raced anything either. In fact, he’s probably raced more between late August to now than most others up and down pit lane.
“It’s not that I haven’t done anything in nine months,” Kanaan continued. “I’ve done twice more races than these guys already this year with the stuff I was doing. It’s not like I was sitting at home watching TV. That helps a lot, regardless of the car. If it’s go-karting or whatever you’re racing, it helps.
“I wasn’t, like, rusty. Just like obviously this is the fastest thing I’m ever going to drive in my life. In comparison to my stockcar, it’s twice the speed. But, yeah, it took me a little bit yesterday, the first hour, then today just felt like home.
“I actually have two races in Brazil between now and by the time we get back here. I’m pretty busy.”
That has Kanaan confident for when he comes back next month. While a lot of the drivers will be at Barber Motorsports Park next weekend and back here for the road course race two weeks later, Kanaan feels like this test and racing in Brazil is enough to get him ready to go when the oval activity ramps up a month from now.
“It’s not really a big deal,” he says. “I think I feel a lot more confident now going into Tuesday, opening day, because I know what I’ve done for two days here, there will be no learning curve or getting used to it the first day.
“Really to me, it’s not a big deal. I was prepared anyway.”
In terms of Ganassi adding a fifth car to accommodate his agreement for Kanaan and Johnson, Kanaan notes that it’s not like this car is just a throw in car. This is a legitimate race winning car he has under him.
“The cars are prepped the same. Chip wouldn’t field me a car just because he wanted to do me a favor. The car is the same prep as the other ones.
“The team, it’s a bunch of good guys. I think as a team we’re competitive. As a team we’ve been working really hard. There is no doubt that we’ll do everything we can to win this race.
“Today we did quite a bit actually. We have the advantage, we have five cars in the team. We’re sharing a bunch of things. Everybody had a list. Everybody went through it.
“If you look at the results, draft, no draft, still we had five cars in the top 10. That’s a pretty good day for us.”
He’s right. Ganassi put all four cars in the Fast Nine Shootout a year ago to go along with having a car pace 5 of the 6 practice sessions. In Texas last month, they put all four cars in the top seven of the finishing order. In Thursday’s test, they had all five cars in the top 10.