Tony Kanaan has secured a last-minute 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series seat with confirmation that he will drive KV Racing Technology's third car this season, with backing from GEICO Insurance.
The 2004 champion parted company with Andretti Autosport at the end of last year, and then lost his planned 2011 drive with De Ferran Dragon Racing when a sponsorship shortfall caused Gil de Ferran's squad to close. But he will now join Takuma Sato and EJ Viso in a third Group Lotus-backed car at KV.
"I think Tony is a great addition to our team," team boss Jimmy Vasser said. "He, along with Taku and EJ gives KVRT-Lotus a very strong driver lineup and one I am sure can compete for podium finishes and race wins. Tony's knowledge and experience will be extremely valuable to our team."
Kanaan revealed that he had talked to KV before signing for De Ferran Dragon last winter.
"Jimmy and I started talking about joining forces at the end of last season, but the timing was not ideal and I ended up signing with Gil," he said. "When I became a free agent in mid-February, calling Vasser seemed like a natural thing to do since KVRT was one of the top teams still looking for a driver.
"Jimmy and I go back a long way, we were rivals during the CART days, but more than that, we have always been good friends, which helped a lot with our negotiations."
Ted Ward, GEICO's Vice President of Marketing said, “We are excited at the opportunity to once again work with KV Racing Technology - Lotus in the IndyCar Series. We feel that safety is an important component of auto racing and being associated with Jimmy Vasser and Tony Kanaan will only help us to continue to spread our message. This is our first full season primary sponsorship in the IndyCar Series and we feel it will complement our current longstanding NASCAR programs and assist us in reaching a much broader fan base.”
The Brazilian says he is not concerned that the deal came together too late to allow him to test with KV before this weekend's season opener in St. Petersburg.
"I've spent the last six months looking for sponsorship and not thinking about racing so I missed all the preseason testing, but I really can't complain," said Kanaan. "With a group of guys like Vasser and his team backing me, plus the help of my new teammates, Takuma Sato and EJ Viso, the only thing I can say is that I'm ready to do what I do best, drive a racecar and push hard to give KVRT-Lotus their first IndyCar win."