Many pundits can tell you a change will do you good. Meet he latest: Tony Kanaan. Mind you, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion wasn’t looking for change. Comfortably ensconced at Andretti Autosport since 2003, Kanaan is one of the most popular and successful drivers in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Then came TK’s Winter of Despair. Just prior to the final race of the 2010 season, 7-Eleven Stores, Kanaan’s primary sponsor for eight years, informed Michael Andretti it was cutting its support. With no sponsor and therefore no guarantee of a ride, Andretti o;ered Kanaan the opportunity to walk away and to the surprise of many, TK chose to do that. His confidence seemed justified when, just before Christmas, he landed a deal to drive for de Ferran Dragon Racing. But unable to source su;cient sponsorship, that fell through. Just a month before the start of the 2011 season, Kanaan was still on the sidelines. Again, not for long. Back in November, Kanaan had already had exploratory discussions with KV Racing Technology-Lotus co-owner Jimmy Vasser. Now those talks took on more substance and, just five days before the season opener at St. Petersburg, Kanaan was announced as the driver of KVRT’s No. 82 car. KVRT-Lotus had been undecided about running a third car alongside returning drivers Takuma Sato and EJ Viso. Kanaan’s availability changed that. “What was a game-changer for GEICO Insurance was not only the value of the sponsorship we were able to o;er, but Tony Kanaan,” Vasser says. “He swings a heavy stick in the marketplace and I think people were very surprised that he was available. With sponsorship he was able to drum up working in Brazil, added to what we had as a team, it really enabled GEICO to get a value package.” With a rapidly assembled crew and maybe half a day of testing, Kanaan qualified eighth at St. Pete and, benefiting from a first-corner accident that eliminated several top competitors, finished third.
“It was awesome,”
Kanaan reflects. “It was
good for my sponsors,
F IGH T ER
The 2011 season has seen Tony
Words John Oreovicz
Kanaan at his combative best, but
his indomitable spirit was revealed
even before the season started.
Portrait Perry Nelson/LAT