Indy 500 winner to make “special career announcement” on Wednesday from IMS

My email inbox had a rather peculiar addition to it on Monday afternoon. It came from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I reference this because it was IMS driven and not from the NTT INDYCAR Series. Granted, both are under one umbrella, but with most of our minds going in the retirement word direction, I wonder why IMS would be the one behind the release and not INDYCAR.

IMS stated that an “Indy 500 winner to make a special announcement Wednesday at IMS.” That said winner, “will make a special career announcement.”

Which leads us to this – who is this about and what is it?

Initially, speculation was geared towards Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan. Each have been doing this for a while and both are back in the series again in 2023. Castroneves is full-time. Kanaan is an Indy only participant. But, is this year their final years that they’ll show up?

They didn’t sound that way during Content Days a few weeks ago.

“To win the 500. Very simple,” Kanaan said on what Zak Brown asked him to do when he hired the popular Brazilian driver.

“Always racing is so — you’re as good as your last result. When you start coming up to my age, which is 48, by the way, people ask you that question. People doubt you. People say, maybe is it time, all those questions.

“The only way to reassure even yourself, because I’m not going to say that you don’t question yourself, is it time or am I still up to — and then you have a result like we did last year and it’s like, wow, you know what, come on, I know I can do it.

“That weighs a lot, also, in a lot of my decisions going forward.

“I know anything can happen in the 500, but as long as I have it in my head that I am competitive, it doesn’t matter if I finish third or if I could add one, but if I think I still have the possibility to win, I will keep trying.

“But also I need other people to see that, sponsors and — let’s face it, I’m not going to get a ride if there is one seat that is going to be a one-off. I’m not coming back to do a full season again anyway.”

However, we already know Kyle Larson is coming into this seat in 2024, so is this year’s run going to now be it? Is that Wednesday’s announcement?

“That’s a good question because Dixon makes fun of me until this day. This is the last, last, last, last lap, the very last lap, what it is,” said Kanaan. “So the answer honestly will be I think I will definitely make a decision, which is not just all up to me.

“I mean, it’s up to me if I say this is it, but if not, I think I’ll make the decision when we cross the start-finish line on that Sunday. When I win, if I win, I’ll put everybody on the spot and I’ll say, I’m coming back. This is exactly what happened last year.

“Right now I think the focus is this 500. Again, I don’t know if — it wasn’t a mistake, but we announced something two years ago and then a great opportunity came with Jimmie’s — I’m not going to put out there this is what I’m doing. It’s just, let it be.”

Kanaan said that while he doesn’t necessarily want this to be it, he won’t do it just to do it. If he’s going to race in the Indy 500, it has to be a legitimate opportunity.

“Let me put it this way: You are totally right, and no disrespect for any teams because I think we have a pretty good group of teams that can win the 500. But at this point, if I don’t think it’s the right opportunity for me then I wouldn’t do it. I don’t want to be at the 500 just to participate,” he said.

“Actually even last year that was part of my decision when I said, I want to come back this year.

“Yeah, I mean, winning, it’s all. I would rather see a young gun coming in, taking place for his first Indy 500, than me just participating just to add a car.”

“I always said, you want to retire, you don’t want somebody to retire you.

“But after 25 years in the series I don’t think I could be — I have the right to be upset if I don’t find a ride if I want to race next year. It’s been a great ride.

“Honestly, it’s the hardest — you see it. You see it in every sport. Not many times top guys retiring came back, because you don’t know how to let it go. Then you have examples like me and Helio who are 48 and Dixon who’s in his 40s and still, I want to come back, I know I can do this.

“But I’m really, really — I was at peace with myself three years ago when I made that decision, so now I’m just riding it because, hey, I’m a race car driver. Going to give me a race car to drive, I’m jumping in.

“But no, it won’t — I won’t be sad if this would be my last one.”

For the 47-year-old Castroneves, this too is the final year of his contract with Meyer Shank Racing. Some have started to speculate that Tom Blomqvist, Castroneves’ Rolex 24 teammate with MSR, would swap roles with Helio in 2024.

“First of all, it’s too early to say,” Castroneves said of that discussion. “Second, I don’t want anything more than great things for this team. This team is incredible. They continue to grow as much as — they already stamped that they’re not just a small team. They stamped that they’re an incredible team, that things amazing about to happen in the future.

“Tom, come on, the kid is a superstar. He’s really quick. I feel that he did — he’s doing an amazing job. Last year he did a great job; this year continued doing it.

“Let’s see. Everything happens and falls natural. But as of right now, it’s too early in the season to predict and think what’s going to happen.

“Our goal is to have a phenomenal result with MSR so that we can show what this team is capable.

“Look, I just won Daytona 24-hour. Do you think I’m thinking retiring right now? There is no — there isn’t a thought of that.

“Look, also the same thing it repeats. It has to feel natural. I can’t force myself. I can’t put a number or date that I can say this is it.

“As of right now, I am enjoying very much what I’m doing. I’m about to start a great season with INDYCAR, and my mind is only thinking about that. I’m just going to continue working and get that result that I really want, that I know I’m capable and I know what the team is capable. Whatever happens in the future remains to be seen.”

Granted, I know in this industry, a lot can change over the course of a few weeks, but did so much change that quickly that Kanaan went from not knowing if this May will be his last until likely the checkered flag on May 28 and Castroneves saying that it’s too early in the season to predict what’s going to happen next year, to one of them announcing a retirement on Wednesday?

That’s hard for me to believe.

Which makes me wonder if this is Takuma Sato related? He’s also 46. He’s part-time with Chip Ganassi Racing. Could he be calling it quits after 2023?

If not them, then I truly don’t what this could be about. Scott Dixon doesn’t sound like he’s planning on letting up any time soon.

Dixon said on Media Day that he would like to go another 5 years or so. Rossi just started at McLaren. Pagenaud is in just Year 2 at MSR. Power is the defending series champion.

We’ll find out Wednesday.

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