A year of frequently fantastic on-track action ended with 10 different winners from 19 races, a worthy champion, a heart-warming result in the Indy 500 and…yes, some troubling incidents, too – mainly, but not exclusively, off-track.
The fact that the “500” winner finished outside the top 10 in the championship compelled us to extend our more in-depth assessment, and 11 seemed such a weird number…so we went for the top 12 finishers in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series. In the coming days, Marshall Pruett will do a mop-up of the almost-made-its, which include winners such as Takuma Sato and Mike Conway, as well as drivers who grabbed runner-up places, such as Graham Rahal, James Jakes, Simona de Silvestro and Josef Newgarden.
For now though, Robin Miller, David Malsher and Marshall Pruett are counting down the dirty dozen. Today, it's…
11th – TONY KANAAN
KV Racing Technology Dallara-Chevrolet
Best finish – 1st, Indianapolis 500
Best start – 4th, Sao Paulo, Toronto 1
Marshall Pruett writes…
The Indy 500, the other ovals, and everything else. That's the easiest way to describe Tony Kanaan's most uncharacteristic year to date. TK's lowest championship finish in 11 seasons of IndyCar Series competition was countered by slaying his own personal dragon at the 97th Indy 500. The 38-year-old experienced the highest of highs, which makes his somewhat forgettable season before and after Indy so strange.
He stood on the podium three more times – all on ovals – which helped secure 11th in the standings, but 2013 was the first season since his early days in CART where the Brazilian wasn't one of the regular storylines from round to round. His last podium visit on a road or street course came at Baltimore in 2011, and with 13 of this year's 19 rounds being held on twisty circuits, the odds conspired against TK achieving greater success.
Whether it has been the new Dallara DW12 chassis or other issues behind the scenes at KV Racing, if we subtract TK's big day in May, there weren't a lot of TK's usual fireworks to look back upon. Four DNFs from the final seven races prevented Kanaan from cracking the top-10 in the final standings, but it was obvious from very early in the season that the 2004 series champion and his KV teammate Simona de Silvestro were lacking something in their road racing setups.
The same sentiment was felt at KV last off-season. Kanaan, who'd placed fifth with KV in 2011 with almost no pre-season testing, was incredibly effective piloting the old Dallara IR07 chassis. But with everyone starting from scratch in 2012, TK's ninth-place championship finish, followed by this year's 11th, highlight a greater issue.
It's easy to point fingers at the engineer, but Kanaan and Eric Cowdin – both of whom are headed to Ganassi next year – have plenty of chemistry dating back to their IndyCar championship with Andretti Green in 2004. KV went down an unsuccessful path on damper development in 2012, which continued to negatively impact the team in 2013. The addition of de Silvestro should have helped to improve the team's overall setup base, but a season-long discord between both engineering camps rendered both entries as single-car programs running under the same tent. Kanaan does his best work when all's going well and positivity is in the air, and there wasn't much in the way of sunshine flowing in either direction this year following the “500.”
Now TK's bags are packed for reigning champs Ganassi, where there are no questions about chassis setup and where he will continue using Chevy power. In other words, he enters 2014 with everything he needs to get back to business. It should provide some fascinating context on his past two seasons with KV.