FORT WORTH, Texas — Story by Race Chaser Online Managing Editor Jacob Seelman — John Cote/IndyCar photo —
For Tony Kanaan, the mile-and-a-half Texas Motor Speedway is a special venue.
The track was the site of one of his three season victories en route to the IndyCar championship in 2004, and this weekend during the Firestone 600 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the track will play host to Kanaan’s record-extending 242nd Indy car start dating back to Portland in June of 2001.
While the streak is not in the forefront of Kanaan’s mind, scoring a second career TMS victory — and ridding his team of a bad luck streak from the three most recent Verizon IndyCar Series races — certainly is.
“The last three races for NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing have been really frustrating, so we’re all ready to get to Texas where I’ve had some good results over the years and see what we can do there,” Kanaan said. “I think this year’s Firestone 600 will be an interesting race with the high speeds and new aero kits, but the series has been working hard to make sure we’re prepared for the fast track at Texas Motor Speedway.”
While Kanaan’s stat-line at Texas may not be as sterling as his fellow countryman Helio Castroneves’ is (the Team Penske driver has a series-record four wins at TMS), the Chip Ganassi racing pilot and 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion still boasts the 2004 win, along with a pole start (by random draw) for race two in 2011, six podiums, eight top fives and 12 top 10s in 15 starts with 313 laps led.
Many of those numbers came back in the days of pack racing for IndyCar at Texas and other high-speed ovals, but Kanaan, who was involved with an early test of the 2015 aero kit simulations for TMS and has watched the field start to spread out over the past several TMS events, says he is a fan of the way the racing has changed of late.
“I would say (I prefer) a little bit stretched out, especially back in the day you remember we had nasty wrecks with Kenny Brack and Tomas Scheckter,” Kanaan said in advance of this weekend’s event. “That was definitely a consequence of pack racing. I would say a little more stretched out, but that doesn’t mean the race isn’t as intense or as competitive, it’s [just] a little bit different.”
This week’s Texas race will utilize a different speedway aero package than was used for the Indianapolis 500 last month.
Besides the fact that Kanaan is closing in on 250-straight Indy car starts in his banner career, the Brazilian has another reason to be up on the wheel in the Lone Star state — sponsor NTT Data’s North American base of operations is located in nearby Plano, Texas.
“I’m [very] excited to get to Texas,” Kanaan expressed. “Yes, getting closer to 250 consecutive starts is special for my career, but I’m more ready for the race [because of] my sponsor NTT Data being headquartered there.”
“We’ll have a lot of fans out there and I can’t wait to get out there and drive the No. 10 Chevrolet.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series begins the second half of its 2015 schedule on Saturday night with the running of the Firestone 600 from Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Racing action begins just before 9 p.m. Eastern time, with live coverage on NBCSN.