Tony Kanaan happy at KV but still misses Andretti teammates It's probably just the muscle memory of sweeping a Sharpie across a poster, hat or T-shirt several thousand times over the course of eight years. Tony Kanaan has signed many autographs this season and accidentally included an 11, the number he drove to 14 victories and a championship for Michael Andretti from 2003 to 2010. Yet the pen slips might serve as reminders that, despite a split laden with bickering, Kanaan finds no vindication in outpointing his former teammates.
"It's not that we parted ways and that made me faster," said the 2004 Izod IndyCar Series champion, who was left rideless late last year by a sponsor departure. "It's not like, 'Yeah, you guys lost it!' I never had that feeling. I was really sad. I miss them because I was there for a long time, and I had to learn how to move on."
Kanaan quickly settled into a new home at KV Racing Technology. Signing five days before the season, the Brazilian scored a podium finish in his St. Petersburg, Fla., debut, the first of six top-five finishes, including a second at Iowa Speedway that was his best finish in more than a year. He's on pace for a top-six points finish, which he did every year with Andretti Autosport. "It's been probably one of my best seasons," said Kanaan, who is close to re-signing an extension with KV.
"Until you leave (a top-tier team), you really don't realize how much easier it is to manage a lead than actually chase the leaders.I thought top 10 would be a big challenge." An Ironman triathlete who once drove all four Andretti cars during an Indianapolis 500 practice, Kanaan was viewed as the unquestioned leader at Andretti. But he feuded last season with Marco Andretti (now seventh in points, one spot behind Kanaan) and Danica Patrick (12th), and his departure wasn't met internally with much regret publicly. Andretti said it was frustrating to have Kanaan viewed as the team's "godfather," and Patrick said it'd make "everyone feel like leaders."
Though Kanaan is ranked ahead of both (as well as Andretti drivers Mike Conway and Ryan Hunter-Reay), he concedes making mistakes in handling the rifts. "In a longtime relationship, you're always going to have disagreements," Kanaan said. "We never hid ours.I could have done things differently and so could they. But some things cost us the relationship in terms of the arguments and the rivalry, including jealousy on both ends. I don't hold anything against anybody."
Though he remains distant from Patrick ("I don't go to dinner with her anymore; there's no hard feelings"), Kanaan is tight with Marco Andretti. Eight of Kanaan's former Andretti Autosport mechanics went to Eldora Speedway in June to watch him compete in Tony Stewart's Prelude to the Dream. He still is building that camaraderie at KV, whose shop he didn't visit until six weeks into the season. He is optimistic, though, of having a shot at winning Sunday's inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix "because it's a new track. We've showed if we stay out of trouble, we have a top-six car every street course." USA TODAY
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