Kanaan quickly makes up for lost time
Tony Kanaan has slept on and swept up floors early in his motorsports career. He's known the capricious nature of the business, the ups (2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion) and downs (not having a ride 10 days before the 2011 season opener).
He's appreciative of the opportunity with KV Racing Technology-Lotus, respectful of the competition and thrilled to be third in the championship standings after two events.
Kanaan, who recorded a third-place finish in the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg two weeks ago, followed with another stirring run in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by Legacy. He gained 10 spots on Lap 1 (from 24th on the grid), remained unscathed during the tightly-contested 90 laps and brought home the No. 82 GEICO car in sixth place.
He had predicted a top 15 during a pre-race interview.
"I think we took advantage to pass a lot of cars on the start, and that actually changed my strategy," Kanaan said. "I have to thank my team. The guys did a great job on the starts. We're fairly new as a team. If you think about it, we've done, what, six pit stops so far this year.
"I struggled all weekend. It was not a coincidence that we had a problem that I was dead last every session. We worked pretty hard. We went to Takuma (Sato) set up after the morning warm up. It was a car that hadn't been driven all weekend long, and it worked. So I did my thing. We stayed out of trouble and we had a great finish."
Kanaan, who left Andretti Autosport in the fall after eight seasons when sponsorship from longtime partner 7-11 dissipated, was announced in December as the driver for de Ferran Dragon Racing. But sponsorship for that collaboration didn't materialize and Kanaan was getting antsy as the season approached.
He hooked up with the Jimmy Vasser-Kevin Kalkhoven-led team, which gladly accepted his leadership and undiminished racing skills.
Though he started 24th of 26 on the grid at Barber Motorsports Park, he wasn't unbowed.
"I've been through so many things that I don't get like down, down," he said. "I was mad at myself because I'm like how can I be that last every session. But I never doubt myself. The day that I start doubting myself I should hang up the helmet and go do something else.
"So I was disappointed, but it doesn't help to be disappointed, because being disappointed is not going to fix the set up. So I tried everything I could on my end to help in the warm up, and nothing that I did worked. So we went to (Sato's) set up and tried to make it work and that's pretty much it. Yeah, I wasn't happy, but the race is a whole different game."