NASCAR to steal Indy 500 champion (3rd Update) UPDATE #3 This rumor is of course 'false' now. Now that Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan has signed with Chip Ganassi’s team for 2014, the driver clarified the relationship he was building with Joe Gibbs Racing for him to race in NASCAR next season.
“It wasn’t an offer, it was a talk,” Kanaan said prior to crashing out of Sunday’s IndyCar Series race. “It was like, ‘What can we do together?’ That’s it.”
Kanaan’s other offer was from Jimmy Vasser to return to KV Racing Technology. Vasser gave Kanaan the chance to stay with the team for two more years without having to bring sponsorship.
Kanaan chose to sign with Ganassi, the winner of nine CART or IndyCar Series championships and five Indianapolis 500s.
“It’s better for me,” Kanaan said. Indy Star09/10/13 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Indianapolis 500 winner Tony Kanaan confirmed, without actually confirming, that he's got a strong lead on a NASCAR opportunity if he can't secure a deal to return to the Izod IndyCar Series.
Kanaan met with Joe Gibbs Racing last week in North Carolina before flying to Brazil on a sponsor-seeking trip.
“Some people are going to doubt it, but I'm going to say it's true,” he said at Tuesday's Firestone test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kanaan said he's also talked to several Brazilian stock car teams about joining them next year. That's where his friend and former KV Racing Technology teammate, Rubens Barrichello, turned to when he couldn't find another IndyCar job.
Kanaan said he's also talked with most of the IndyCar Series teams. His two best chances appear to be remaining at KV or joining Ganassi Racing, which also is believed to be interested in James Hinchcliffe. That seat might come down to which driver can contribute the most amount of money.
Kanaan still doesn't know what kind of support he has from the Brazilian companies that have backed him in the past.
“I'm a free agent right now; I've got to look everywhere,” the 2004 IndyCar Series champion said. “I've got to be in talks with anybody who wants to speak to me.
“I think it will be a bloody shame if I'm not [back]. Apart from what we saw here [in May] from the fans and what I've done, it would be big loss to everybody if I'm not here.” AutoWeek09/07/13
Whether Tony Kanaan has been offered a ride with Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR organization _ media outlets argued that point Friday _ the bottom line is that winning the Indianapolis 500 hasn’t guaranteed the Brazilian anything beyond a legacy.
|Is that Tony Kanaan waving goodbye to IndyCar fans after winning this year's Indy 500? Can you believe the 500 winner has to buy his ride for next year? Sad. Was this Tony George's "vision" when he started the IRL, split the sport, and killed it?|
Kanaan expected his May 26 victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to solve his IndyCar Series sponsorship-seeking troubles, but it hasn’t. Brazilian companies that he’s counted on haven’t seen the benefit of the series at home, and now there is talk of Sao Paulo officials canceling their street-circuit event.
The end of that race would be bad for both IndyCar and Kanaan.
Kanaan has talked with every IndyCar team owner who will listen, which is virtually everyone. He has confirmed at least casual conversations with his current team, KV Racing Technology, his former team, Andretti Autosport, and these prospective teams: Ganassi Racing, Barracuda Racing (owned by former teammate Bryan Herta), Panther Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. There might be others, too, and none of them have the necessary sponsorship to field him in a car.
It’s thought that Chip Ganassi’s team would be the best destination, but Ganassi has options. James Hinchcliffe, who has won three races this season for Michael Andretti in a breakout season, could bring GoDaddy sponsorship with him.
Panther has been thought to have committed to Ryan Briscoe for next year and beyond. The other teams are still likely a month or two from having a grasp on their sponsorship.
Regardless of whether Kanaan has been offered a stock car deal or not _ Racer said it was a three-year deal that starts in Nationwide; the Sporting News quoted a JGR spokesman saying there has been no formal discussions _ it’s clear he has enough interest or motivation to explore his options.
Whether Kanaan planned what happened after the 2008 season or not, he benefited from Ganassi’s interest by re-upping with Andretti. It’s possible this talk about moving to NASCAR has the same effect.
IndyCar can’t afford to lose its most popular driver, and that driver doesn’t want to leave. But, he might have to if he wants to get paid what he feels an Indianapolis 500 winner deserves. Indy Star09/06/13 Tony Kanaan is the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, past champion and a fan favorite on the IZOD IndyCar circuit. He's searching for sponsorship to try and stay with the series he's been with for a decade and loves. But what if another team from another discipline offered him a paying ride where all he had to bring was his helmet, talent and personality?
RACER has learned that Joe Gibbs Racing has made the popular Brazilian an offer to run Nationwide in 2014, with a chance to move to Sprint Cup for one of NASCAR's best operations.
Kanaan was reportedly on his way to Brazil and couldn't be reached for comment and J.D. Gibbs didn't return a phone call, but a source close to the Gibbs' team revealed that T.K. had spent most of Tuesday at the Gibbs' shop in Charlotte.
Kanaan has talked with Chip Ganassi about his fourth seat, Michael Andretti if free agent James Hinchcliffe departs, Bryan Herta's second car and continues to be a candidate to stay at KV Racing, where he's been the past three seasons. But, in a story on RACER.com three weeks ago, Kanaan was understandably miffed that every team he's talked to about a job needs him to bring money.
"At this point in my life, if you still have to prove yourself you make have to re-think what you are doing," he said on Aug. 20. "I love open-wheel but maybe I need to look at NASCAR as an option."
The last time the Indy 500 winner didn't return to defend his title after switching to another series was Dario Franchitti in 2008, following his move to NASCAR. Racer.com