One of Indy's perennial favorites, KV Racing Technology's Tony Kanaan, will be keeping a regular diary for RACER over the course of the next two weeks, as he makes his 12th attempt at the Indianapolis 500.
In 11 Indy 500 starts, TK has led eight of them for a total of 221 laps, he's qualified on the front three rows nine times, and on five occasions he's finished in the top five, most recently last year when he took third. However, famously, he's yet to have his characterful face carved onto the Borg Warner trophy, despite some near misses.
In the next few days, we'll get a pretty good picture of how it is to be Mr. Kanaan at the biggest theater in racing.
It's that time of year, boys and girls – it's “Christmas” for IndyCar fans as much as it is for me and the other drivers. The 97th Indianapolis 500 is finally here.
I landed at about midnight on Thursday and it was straight into meetings and getting ready for the opening weekend, but that's the normal stuff to talk about. We're not just going to talk about the normal stuff this month on RACER.com, OK guys?
It has become like a tradition to come to Indianapolis with big hopes and expectations; naturally, I think most drivers want to win the 500, but now that I'm about to start my 12th month of May, I'll be honest: I try not to think about it. Every year it's different but every year I obviously try to put myself in the position to win. So this year especially, I'm feeling extremely confident because we are better as a team and I have to say that probably of the three years that I've been with KV, this is the one where I have the most confidence. But all the hopes and dreams stuff…I'm not considering that, if that makes sense. Confidence, yes. Letting my mind wander about what it would mean to win Indianapolis and all the other stuff? No.
Coming here, I'm 17th in points. You might think that means I've had a terrible season so far, and it's true we haven't had the finishes we want, but I don't think the results do us justice. We aren't a 17th-place team. I think if you look at the accident in Long Beach that took me out of a good finish and what happened in the race in Brazil, you know we were strong, we were running up front. But out of four races, I only have one good finish. James Hinchcliffe...he's only finished two races this year but he won both… It's a good problem for him to have!
So that's where we are coming into Indianapolis.
I have a new teammate this year and she's been really cool to work with. I got to know Simona much better when she came into the team, and with only two KV cars this year at Indianapolis, I think it's going to be a lot less stress and hopefully we'll be able to help each other out. I know how good she is on the street and the road courses, and we've been able to work a lot on setups, but this is going to be our first oval together. I'm expecting nothing less than what she's been doing well so far this year and we should be a strong team.
One thing I always get when I come to Indianapolis is a lot of love, and I'm telling you, even though it doesn't make the engine more powerful, or anything like that, it energizes me so much. And coming here straight from Brazil, the feelings are incredibly powerful. Somebody said to me on Monday, “Man, what a tough weekend you had in Brazil. Bad luck.” And I said, do you know what? Some people would criticize me for saying this, but what came during and after the race, even though we lost the chance to win, it meant just as much to me as anything that could have happened on track. To see the crowd screaming my name and cheering me on and saying, “Thank you for what you've done; for us, you're a champion, regardless…” – That's something that I don't think a lot of people experience in life.
So imagine taking all of that love from my country and going to Indianapolis, where I swear I get just as much love from the fans. The love is coming from Indianapolis in two ways because my wife is from Indianapolis, as well! I don't want to sound like I'm sitting here with a box of tissues, crying right now, but there is an amazing connection I feel with Indianapolis and I believe it goes both ways with the town and all of the amazing fans who come out.
We have many IndyCar winners who have trophies or rings or the title in their hand. I'm one of them. But I don't think some of them get to experience what I do every year at Indianapolis. And that only does me good, to be honest. My critics would say that all that stuff is a consolation if I don't win the Indy 500. Well, so be it. But it's a pretty good consolation! When you get out of the car and finish 11th, like I did in 2010 after starting last and the entire place is screaming your name, you don't really feel like a loser, you know? Or last year, when I finished third, I got more cheers than my best friend Dario…no offense to him because he's won this race three times.
The love comes through. I can say (and I don't think anybody's going to disagree) that when I passed for the lead last year, it was a bigger roar than I've heard in a long, long time. So I guess if I never win this thing, I can leave with some great memories of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But that's not the sound of me giving up; I'm not conceding anything. I want to hear an even bigger roar this year and hold onto that lead!
But until we get to lap 200 in the race, I'm going to focus on the car and my team. If you could win Indianapolis by just wanting it more than anybody, me and my big nose would be on the Borg Warner trophy 10 or 11 times already.
I'll talk to you guys in a couple days.
2004 IndyCar Series champion Tony Kanaan drivers the Chevy-powered No. 11 car for KV Racing Technology, sponsored by Hydroxycut. Learn more about Kanaan at http://tonykanaan.com.br/ and his team at http://kvracingtechnology.homestead.com/.
Also, check out some video footage of Kanaan on the attack in Brazil, edited by Marshall Pruett: