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DATE News (chronologically)
12/17/10
irl
nastruck
Kanaan signs with DeFerran UPDATE #2 Gil de Ferran’s Izod IndyCar Series team has scheduled a Monday teleconference presumably to announce the signing of fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan.  AND.......A press conference is set for Monday in Brazil and SPEED.com has learned that Kanaan will officially be confirmed as the new driver of the de Ferran/Dragon team for 2011.  Raphael Matos drove for Jay Penske, Steve Luczo and de Ferran in 2010 and the Brazilian sophomore scored a pair of fourth-place finishes but struggled for consistency without a teammate.  It appears Kanaan would be the lone driver for de Ferran/Luczo next year unless Matos can find sponsorship.  We have updated our 2011 IndyCar Silly Season page above.

11/12/10 Kyle Busch has revealed that he has tried to persuade IndyCar star Tony Kanaan to move to NASCAR and drive for his Truck Series team next year.  Busch (LEFT) is about to finish his debut season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where he has won seven out of 14 races he has entered, driving his own No. 18 Toyota Tundra. Next week at Homestead he could clinch the owners' title, as his truck is leading those standings.

It's not inconceivable that Kanaan could move to NASCAR
Kanaan is currently looking for a drive for next year following the announcement of his departure from Andretti Autosport, the team he won the IndyCar Series title with back in 2004. He is expected to test with De Ferran Dragon Motorsports at Sebring next week, but he still needs sponsorship to secure a drive for 2011.

Speaking at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday, Busch said he considers Kanaan a friend and expects to hear from him regarding an offer he made to the Brazilian to drive one of Kyle Busch Motorsports' trucks in 2011, which Busch suggested could lead to a progressive switch to stock car racing over the next two seasons.

"I've had a conversation with Tony about it on whether he's interested or not. He's yet to kind of come back to me with anything," said Busch. "I told him that with Toyota support and with the support of the Truck Series, I think it would be kind of fun to see him. We've seen it with Danica [Patrick] and Dario [Franchitti], some of those guys who have come over and given it a try.

"I feel like it's no different than a young driver. Tony Kanaan having all the experience he has with going 230mph or whatever it is in [IndyCar] can come to NASCAR, but yet start small. Start in the Truck Series, start with a good team where you can do some testing.

"[We could] test him a little bit, get his feet wet. Get him in some good equipment, go out there and run some races and get some experience maybe next year and maybe 2012 go on in a full year. That's kind of what I explained to him, so whether or not he wants to do that or venture down this pathway, I respect his decision to stay in [IndyCar], that's where he's made his bread and butter and that's where he's really good. If that's where he decides to stay, that's good for him." Racer.com

11/11/10 He's got every excuse to be negative, but Tony Kanaan won't go there. This is not a good time. Not at all. He has no job, but he's doing everything in his power to find one. Even if it means the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Yes, you read that right. Not a misprint. It's true; the word is out. Kyle Busch has contacted Kanaan about the possibility of driving for his truck team in 2011. World, commence to end.

By now, you know the back-story. Kanaan was released from his contract with Andretti Autosport after 7-Eleven pulled its primary sponsorship from the No. 11 car at the end of the IndyCar season. He began the arduous process of searching for another ride, talking seriously with De Ferran Dragon Racing and Newman/Haas Racing, among others.

The universal response has been plain: We don't have the budget to run you, and we can't put together the sponsorship. Can you bring money?

Thus, IndyCar racing is reduced to this: One of its most accomplished and popular drivers is being asked to find a sponsor - in essence, to buy his ride. Or go drive a truck, which doesn't require such nonsense.

It's the fundamental wrong with racing in general and IndyCar in particular. A full-time ride with a competent team requires $3 million to $4 million per season. Given the stagnant economy and general lack of interest in IndyCar racing, corporate sponsorship is difficult to find (and keep, as Kanaan discovered this season). Teams can't sell corporations on a number that large, especially when the suits don't see much return on investment. So Kanaan is being asked to do what used to be required only of the hackiest of the hacks - bring money.

So he works the phones and planes, staying positive and upbeat. Apex-Brasil, Brazil's trade and investment promotion agency, has been aligned with Kanaan since it came on board to back Brazilian ethanol in the series in 2009. He's on his way to Brazil next week to meet with Apex officials in an attempt to secure funding. They want to help; he wants their help. It would be a perfect Brazilian fit for Gil de Ferran's team - Kanaan with his protégé, Rafa Matos, with a Brazilian sponsor and Brazilian owner - but that remains to be seen.

The issue isn't that Kanaan is struggling to find a backer. It's that he's required to find a backer at all.
"It doesn't bother me in my situation, but it bothers me that others are going through it," Kanaan said Monday. "Oriol Servia, Paul Tracy, Graham Rahal, guys like that. We're all being asked to find money, and that never was the case in the past. It's not like teams don't want us. It's that they don't have the money to run us.

"The money to pay my salary is not even being discussed. The problem is that people don't have the budget to run a car for a full season unless we find someone to pay for it. I've never been in this position before. Guys I know who are very capable drivers don't have a ride because they can't find someone with $3 million, while some drivers that shouldn't be here have good rides because they found someone with that kind of money. It's sad."

It's what's come of this sport, through a perfect storm of the split and reconciliation, a weak economy and a lack of eyes on the screen and butts in the seats. What once was a no-brainer - pay millions to put a logo on Tony Kanaan's car - has become a shaky proposition. Teams can't sell it, so drivers now take on that responsibility.

Ride-buying separates - and diminishes - racing from other professional sports. If a baseball player can't hit the curveball, he languishes in the minor leagues and eventually gives up on his major-league dream. He doesn't call the Yankees and cut a seven-figure check to play right field. In other words, Milka Duno doesn't get to play in the majors. She never gets close. Ride-buying cheapens the sport, waters down the quality of the product, and shackles it with a sense of amateurism and illegitimacy.

What's worse? Now it's being required of the best. Used to be only the backmarkers were asked to bring money. Now the top drivers are being asked to find their own backers. Tony Kanaan, whose record-setting championship in 2004 is one of the most dominating and complete seasons in racing history, is in need of a sugar daddy. Or else he'll go third-tier NASCAR. Sigh.

Still, he refuses to lose faith. Something will break. He'll be racing somewhere for someone in 2011. It just might not be exactly what he wants. Or for a full season. He'll do what he has to do, what he's always done. Keep moving forward. Chin up, eyes open.

"I've got to survive," Kanaan says. "I race cars for a living. My heart and soul is in this, so I'm not giving up on it. Wherever I'm going, it's going to be a re-start. I'm starting over. I could be pessimistic, but I can't. I've got to stay positive."

Even if it means a significant step down. Versus.com

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