Indy 500 win makes Belle Isle weekend interesting for Tony Kanaan

Tony Kanaan’s feet haven’t hit the ground since his incredibly popular Indy 500 victory last Sunday.

The Brazilian IZOD IndyCar Series veteran has been busy with TV and radio appearances around the country.

So, what about the hair — when did he find time to dye it?

"The hair — well, that was a bet between me and Rubens Barrichello," explained Kanaan at Thursday’s Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix media luncheon at the Rattlesnake Club. “Being a good friend in the series — he’s going bald, you know — the bet was if I win the 500, he has to shave his head because I know he’s not going to grow it back up. He fired back at me, ‘I will do it, but you have to dye your hair blonde (if you win).’ I think I’m getting the best of it."

Barrichello, a former Formula One star who drove IndyCar last year, and Kanaan have been longtime friends, racing go-karts in Brazil as youngsters and keeping tabs on each other’s careers.

Barrichello was one of the first people to contact Kanaan after his 500 win.

He left a message on Kanaan’s phone.

“He was crying like a baby, which I can’t blame him for," said Kanaan, who drives for KV Racing Technology and will start as one of the favorites in the IndyCar doubleheader at Belle Isle this weekend. “But he said he was happy for me."

Kanaan removed his cap at the luncheon to display a close-cropped head that almost looked like a golden dome.

“I always shave my head," joked Kanaan, who won the 2007 Belle Isle race. “But he (Barrichello) will be bald for another 40 years. I’ll be blonde for two days."

Kanaan, 38, said he wasn’t sure exactly when he’d switch back to his regular bald look, but it would be before going on the “Late Show with David Letterman."

“I’ll have to shave it before I go on Letterman," said Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Chevy/Dallara. “He’s going to make enough fun of me already — my big nose and a blond? I don’t think this is going to work."

Of course, no one really makes fun of Kanaan, one of the stalwarts of IndyCar who is looking for a second championship in the series to go with the one from 2004. He is certainly a threat to win over the weekend in what is expected to be a grueling two days of open-wheel racing.

“This is not a normal weekend — not at all," said Kanaan of the IndyCar twin bill. “I think it will be the hardest weekend in IndyCar of my whole career. But (Belle Isle) is an awesome place to race; it’s very demanding on the body. I know how I feel after one race — how exhausted and physically and mentally drained you are. To do it twice is going to be a test."

Kanaan is prepared, however, to get the job done.

“Hopefully, it’s a good thing for the fans to watch a couple races over the weekend," he said. “If that works for them, it works for me."

Kanaan said he thinks this year’s IndyCar championship will come down to a fight among seven or eight drivers.

“It is extremely competitive," he said. “You have a big mix. There are guys who are going to be coming at Belle Isle and down the road."

His chances on Saturday and Sunday as cars begin practice on the island today?

“I’m going for the win," Kanaan said. “If I don’t have a car to do that, I’m going for as high as I can." Detroit Free Press

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