Tony Kanaan's history at Auto Club Speedway shows three podium finishes, five top-five finishes and a pole position in his previous five starts on the 2-mile oval. So he enters this weekend's MAVTV 500 with hopes of ending the year on a high note by claiming KV Racing Technology's first win since 2008 and earning the A.J. Foyt Trophy as the IZOD IndyCar Series' oval champion.
"I've been on the podium three times before, so coming back to (Auto Club Speedway) is a good feeling, especially in the situation we are in with the oval championship," he said.
Kanaan entered the year with high hopes after reuniting with engineer Eric Cowdin and much of the team that he worked with for almost a decade at Andretti Green Racing, which helped him win the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series title (ABOVE). The team had similar hopes after signing Formula 1 veteran Rubens Barrichello to join Kanaan and E.J. Viso in a three-car lineup. But neither has lived up to expectations, with Kanaan's second place at Milwaukee the high-water mark for the season.
"I said at the beginning of the year we're not Penske, we're not Ganassi," Kanaan said. "We have three cars, and from the outside people look at it and it's the same organization and the same layout. The team is well-dressed and has nice scooters, but once you get all the good people together it takes time for everyone to adjust.
"Rubens is a big name, but he's still a rookie. Rubens needed me a lot more than I could use him. E.J. made a huge improvement from years past. But compared to Helio (Castroneves) and Will (Power), Dario (Franchitti) and Dixie (Scott Dixon), and you add the other two Ganassi cars to the mix and then you have (Ryan) Briscoe. Those guys have been working together for a long time and they are at the level, but they feed off of each other. For us, the expectations were extremely high, so I spent a lot of time helping (my teammates) instead of the other way around, which is understandable. But the organization got extremely overwhelmed."
Kanaan, who has started all but one Indy car race in Fontana, hopes to use his experience in 500-mile races to his advantage at Auto Club Speedway and maybe play the spoiler role in the championship-deciding race.
"If I have any advantage it's my experience in a 500-mile race against some of the guys who don't have (that)," he said. "We're still in the hunt for the top five in the championship. But I thought we would win more races."