The three racing stars will take part in the hit show's regional competition April 27 on a specially designed course at Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Any of the three who finish among the top 30 contestants or complete the course will return April 28 for Round 2. If successful then, they move on to the show's finals in Las Vegas against qualifiers from other regional competitions. The Indianapolis episode is scheduled to air June 13 in prime time.
"I'm so excited to be a part of 'American Ninja Warrior' and get the chance to run such a crazy obstacle course," said Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner who has completed the Ironman World Championship and is driving the No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at this weekend's Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
"I haven't had a lot of time to prepare, but I think my training that I do on a daily basis will put me in a position to perform well," Kanaan said. "We're constantly trying to show everyone that what we do requires us to be athletes, but sometimes it doesn't translate as well to the general public. This will be our chance to show how physically fit we have to be to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series."
"American Ninja Warrior," returning for its eighth season on NBC, will visit five cities, including Indianapolis, leading to the finals. In Las Vegas, competitors will face a daunting four-stage obstacle course that, if completed, will earn a $1 million grand prize and the title of "American Ninja Warrior." To date, there has been only one grand prize winner.
"It's a crazy cool opportunity because I don't think a lot of people get the chance to try that obstacle course," said Newgarden, driver of the No. 21 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevy, 2011 Indy Lights champion and a two-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner. "I've had one day to really prepare for it. We've been on the road traveling so much, and you can't just go into the gym and do pull-ups; that's not how you train for that type of competition. It's very specialized. It's all technique, it's all specific obstacles."
The drivers were able to train at gyms in Indianapolis and Florida that specialize in preparation for the show, but they won't know what obstacles await them until they arrive. No matter, they know it will be grueling.
"I realized that to become a Ninja, wow, you have to sacrifice a lot," said Castroneves, the three-time Indy 500 winner and driver of the No. 3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet. "That's not my day job so I've got to be really careful. You throw yourself through a lot of the areas that, if you are not prepared, you can actually hurt yourself. I was very cautious about that and do have some blisters, bruises, but right now it's been fun."
The 40-year-old Brazilian, an admitted "American Ninja Warrior" fan, is grateful no races are scheduled for the two weekends after the competition in Indianapolis.
"I don't have anything the week after," he said with a laugh. "If something goes wrong, at least I have a week to recover. Hopefully we don't (fall into) the water, we just keep going and have a good time."
Added Newgarden, "I don't know how we're going to do. Maybe one of us will miraculously do really well and represent INDYCAR. I'm hoping that's the case, but I don't know."