The start of the IZOD IndyCar Series is more than five months away, but for KV Racing Technology drivers Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro the preparations for 2013 are well underway as the duo took part Thursday in a closed test at Texas Motor Speedway.
KV Racing Technology will usher in a new lineup in 2013 with Kanaan returning for his third season with the organization and the newly acquired de Silvestro joining the veteran to round out the two-car team. Both drivers are excited for the changes as de Silvestro finally has a teammate after three years of competition while Kanaan and Chevrolet powered KV Racing Technology have added one of the brightest, rising drivers in the series.
“It’s really exciting for me because I’ve been in INDYCAR for three seasons and I’ve always had to figure things out for myself," said de Silvestro, who spent all three of those seasons with HVM Racing. “Tony has a lot of experience, especially on the ovals too where I think I have the most to learn. I’m really looking forward to working with him and so far we get along pretty well. During my rookie season when I had questions, I would always go and ask him. He was my ‘go-to’ guy so now that we are on the same team I think it is great."
Kanaan, who will enter his 12th year in the IZOD IndyCar Series, has witnessed the potential of his new teammate. He has seen her talents during her three years while racing for the underfunded HVM Racing that also had the underpowered Lotus this season and recently in test sessions this offseason.
“Even before she was my teammate I expressed how good of a race car driver I thought she was," Kanaan said. “Unfortunately I don’t think she was in the proper configuration – car, team, manufacturer. It didn’t do justice for her potential. I’m going to have a lot of work. We went testing at Barber (Motorsports Park) and I can tell how fast she is right away in the same equipment. It pushes me and makes me wake up in the morning and know that I have to step up my game every day."
Playing the role of mentor is nothing new for Kanaan who has helped with the likes of the late Dan Wheldon, 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, Danica Patrick, Marco Andretti and Rubens Barrichello.
Kanaan has relished the role and understands the potential that can come from helping a flourishing, young driver succeed. He sees the potential in the team and looks forward to making it a championship organization in 2013.
“I’ve been in the series for so long that whoever – apart from Dario (Franchitti), Helio (Castroneves), (Scott) Dixon – if they are not going to be my teammate I’m going to be the mentor to whoever comes along," Kanaan said. “I never mind it. I’ve done it for the past 10 years. Whatever I can do to help her I will. I want this team to be successful, a winning team with me and her. Her winning would be great for us; it would be great for the series."
The change in driver lineup is just part of the adjustments both Kanaan and de Silvestro will encounter in 2013. The IZOD IndyCar Series will move forward with a new leader as previous Chief Executive Officer Randy Bernard resigned from his position in October.
Jeff Belskus, the president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and president and CEO of Hulman & Co., has assumed the role of CEO of the IndyCar Series. For Kanaan, who classifies himself as a “big Randy fan," was disappointed in the move and hopes the series can move in the right direction as it continues to grow the sport.
“What people need to understand is that whoever is going to take that job at any point, at any time is always going to be in the hot seat," Kanaan said. “It’s the most difficult job. It is a series that is growing. We have a lot of issues, in my opinion. It wasn’t fair to Randy because he got some of the deals that were made before he already came. I trust in the board and I’ll support the series. I’m here and I’m one of the biggest fans of this series and whoever is going to come we will welcome and make it work.
“We are going to need someone quick who is going to be able to answer the questions that you have and I have as well. There are a lot of questions from the sponsors and from the teams on which direction we are going to take and hopefully soon they will speak up."
Kanaan was asked during the media session if that suitable person would be Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage.
“I think Eddie would be, but I don’t think he would leave this place," Kanaan said. “Look at this place. It’s not because we are here, but look at this. Look at the setup and the stuff is very, very well done. If you give me a few names, Eddie would definitely be on my list if I had to choose.
Kanaan and de Silvestro return to Texas Motor Speedway for the Firestone 550 – “America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race" – on Saturday evening, June 8. Texas Motor Speedway has remained a staple on the IZOD IndyCar Series considering its track record for producing excitement for both the fans and drivers.
“This is one of the best ovals we go to as far as attendance and the whole Texas Motor Speedway team does a great job at promoting our series," Kanaan said. “Plus it’s a big market for us. The race this year was awesome. It’s such a thrill. It’s a track that creates good racing."
Individual tickets for the Firestone 550 IZOD IndyCar Series race go on sale tomorrow beginning at 9 a.m. CT. Fans can purchase tickets by visiting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office, calling the ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.