Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Sports

Kanaan reconfiguring his IndyCar career

ST. PETERSBURG — A few dozen school children sat in front of Tony Kanaan on Wednesday to hear the IndyCar Series veteran talk about a subject he has learned a lot about through an up-and-down racing career.

The importance of understanding science, engineering and math in motorsports.

The 38-year-old Brazilian is still trying to reinvent his career after dropped sponsors forced him out of a powerhouse Andretti Autosport team with four series championships in nine years to up-and-coming KV Racing Technology, which has only been around for a decade.

"It was a big wake-up call," Kanaan said after career day at the Science Center of Pinellas. "In a way I think I was spoiled for a long time. It was a big back-to-reality thing."

And that new reality hasn't always been kind to one of the sport's most respected drivers.

Kanaan established himself as one of the top open-wheel racers with an eight-year career at Andretti. He won 14 races, including a series-best five in 2007.

He claimed the 2004 series championship, was runnerup in 2005 and never finished outside the top six in points. Kanaan finished in the top five at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg every year from 2005-09.

But the bottom fell out on Kanaan in 2010 when his top sponsor dropped him and he split with Andretti. In a sport dominated by three powerhouse teams — Andretti, Ganassi and Penske — Kanaan slipped from the sport's upper tier and its loaded pocketbooks. He landed at KV Racing, which has claimed only two victories since joining the sport in 2003.

"I was in one of the top-three teams in IndyCar," Kanaan said. "All of a sudden we lose the sponsorship and you have to move."

Kanaan's No. 11 Chevy team doesn't have the budget of the sport's bluebloods, so he has had to adapt.

His garage values camaraderie as much as it does technical expertise and swooped up five of his former Andretti crew members. To keep up with younger drivers, he spends more time working out on race-specific training, such as neck and shoulder exercises, and less time running or swimming for fun. And as he has matured, he has changed his expectations.

"Before I won the championship, it was something I was hunting," said Kanaan, who had mechanical problems last year at St. Petersburg and finished 25th. "It would make me secure. I thought after 2004 when I did it, 'I finally did it. No one can take that away.' Then you can relax. Then you focus on other projects. As you get older, you have a family. You have kids."

Kanaan no longer thinks about racing every minute, as he did when he was a 23-year-old CART rookie of the year in 1998.

He spends time with his family, pushing his 5-year-old son in a chair to simulate racing. He was married two weeks ago and didn't make his bride honeymoon at a test in Alabama. And he doesn't stress over a 41-race winless streak or obsess over the Indianapolis 500, which he has led eight times but never won.

"When you're a young kid … I was dreaming about winning 10 championships and seven Indy 500s," Kanaan said. "Obviously as you grow up, it becomes reality. You try to evaluate every situation you're in. It's not just about winning. You've got to put yourself in the right place at the right time with the right team with the right money."

Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.

Comments
Live blog: Lightning's season ends with 4-0 loss in Game 7

Live blog: Lightning's season ends with 4-0 loss in Game 7

  Follow our live coverage of the Eastern Conference final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals. We'll have updates, analysis, photos, video and more on and off the ice from Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo j...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Lightning-Capitals: Roger Mooney’s takeaways from the Lightning’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Roger Mooney’s takeaways from the Lightning’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

* The Lightning picked the worst time to stop scoring goals. It's tough to win when you go more than six periods without getting at least one past the goalie, but that is what happened to the NHL's top-scoring team during the regular season.* Certain...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
State baseball: 60 wins and counting for Calvary Christian

State baseball: 60 wins and counting for Calvary Christian

FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian will play for its second straight Class 4A state championship Thursday. The Warriors defeated Jacksonville Trinity Christian 2-1 on Wednesday night at Hammond Stadium in a game delayed three hours due to weather. It is ...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

In a way, the timing of RHP Jake Faria's oblique injury seemed manageable in that RHP Nathan Eovaldi is close to coming off the disabled list and can step in. But on the other hand, the Rays finally could have four regular starters. Imagine that.Ther...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Region baseball: Venice dispatches Mitchell

NEW PORT RICHEY — Walking by the football field and toward the parking lot after Wednesday's Class 7A region final at Ridgewood High, several Venice High players were caught by surprise as the irrigation system turned on.But while shaking off t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘C’mon Tampa, let’s go!’ Lightning fans gather for Game 7

‘C’mon Tampa, let’s go!’ Lightning fans gather for Game 7

TAMPA — Hours before Gate C opened Wednesday at Amalie Arena, six die-hard Tampa Bay Lightning fans gathered on the steps.Waiting.For Thomas Schooley, 40, of Seminole, it’s a pregame tradition with meaning."I’ve got to be the first one in," Schooley ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays’ Jake Faria may be out until August, Vidal Nuno called up

Rays’ Jake Faria may be out until August, Vidal Nuno called up

UPDATE, 5:32: Faria is looking at at extended absence, potentially into August. Cash said an estimate of 6-8 weeks was on the optimistic side. "From what we found out he got it pretty good," Cash said.  "So it could be a little bit longer than t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
USF posts (mostly) solid APR marks

USF posts (mostly) solid APR marks

For the third consecutive year, all 16 USF sports programs posted Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores of 952 or better, well above the NCAA's minimum standard.But its two most prominent sports showed mild decreases.The 2016-17 APR scores (rolling fou...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Win or lose, no one should be down on this Lightning season

Win or lose, no one should be down on this Lightning season

TAMPA — So here's a question that came up before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final between the Lightning and Capitals. It's a fill-in-the-blank question.Here goes: If the Lightning does not win the Stanley Cup, this Lightning season will g...
Updated: 4 hours ago
State softball: Land O’Lakes advances to second straight title game

State softball: Land O’Lakes advances to second straight title game

VERO BEACH — Land O'Lakes had just finished a hard-fought 5-0 victory over Clay in the Class 6A state semifinal. Callie Turner threw a no-hitter. Jolene Bodner had a two-run single.The win was big, clinching the Gators' second straight champion...
Updated: 4 hours ago