Kanaan sees good things ahead for his team
At Indianapolis, Kanaan's team scrambled to get the No. 11 car into the 33-car field on the final day of qualifying. And with a half-hour left, Kanaan, after furious repairs to the vehicle, went fast enough to qualify 32nd and later salvage the event by finishing 11th in the race.
|Tony Kanaan has been difficult some tough times, including a divorce recently|
"It was interesting. But I think I learned a lot," Kanaan said. "You learn from the good times, but you learn also from the bad times. My whole career (at Indianapolis), I hadn't started worse than sixth, and I didn't even know the drama about making the race.
"I had no idea about qualifying on the second day. That had never crossed my mind. On the second day of qualifying, I was always on my bus, watching and saying, 'Geez, poor guys.' "
Tony Kanaan had two crashes in less than 24 hours as he tried to get his car on the grid for this year's Indianapolis 500. But in those tense final moments of qualifying, the veteran open wheel driver still believed he would be a part of the field for the IndyCar Series' signature race.
In many ways, Kanaan feels the same about the direction of his career and the state of his team, Andretti Autosport. Despite numerous issues, he's confident the team can begin to catch up to the sport's two other powerhouse organizations, Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske Racing.
Perhaps as soon as this weekend's Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway.
"We're still a team," said Kanaan, who won in Sonoma in 2005, "that's capable of winning."
There was a time when Kanaan was arguably IndyCar's most consistent driver. He won the series championship in 2004 and had 12 victories and 57 top-five finishes from 2004-2008.
In August 2008, Kanaan was rumored to be on his way to Ganassi for the 2009 season and beyond. But Kanaan signed a five-year contract extension with then-Andretti Green Racing, and the Ganassi seat went to Dario Franchitti.
Franchitti has since won the 2009 series championship and seven races, including this year's Indianapolis 500. Kanaan, meanwhile, has one win since the start of a tumultuous 2009 season.
Kanaan went through a divorce from his wife, Dani, and finished 10th or worse eight times in 17 races, which was more than he had in the previous two seasons combined (six). Not only did he not win last year, but neither did teammates Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti and Hideki Mutoh. Mutoh now is with Newman/Haas Racing.
"You can look at it in hindsight as well. We could be winning everything like Dario is and (Scott) Dixon was," Kanaan said. "But I believed in the team and the credibility that (owner) Michael Andretti gave me in 2002 when he hired me to replace him, that counted a lot."
This season brought a name change for the team -- from Andretti Green Racing to Andretti Autosport -- and a new manager in Tom Anderson. But in the ultracompetitive circuit, the improvements have been marginal.
Kanaan broke a nearly two-year winless drought with a victory in Iowa in June, but his average qualifying position is 14.9. Mercury News