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IndyCar Indy 500

Kanaan still undecided if his 22nd Indy 500 will be his last

Tony Kanaan has admitted he’s not sure if this year’s 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be his final attempt, and says it’s a decision that may wait until the end of the race.

Tony Kanaan, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

The 2013 Indy 500 winner with KV Racing-Chevrolet will be competing this May for Arrow McLaren-Chevy alongside the team’s fulltimers Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist and Alexander Rossi. As well as his triumph, Kanaan has amassed eight more top-five finishes in the event, including third in last year’s event for Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda.

Given that 2021 NASCAR champion Kyle Larson is destined to race for the team in the 500 in 2024, Kanaan was asked if he considered this year’s race an audition for another team in next year’s event, or if he intended to make such a compelling case that Arrow McLaren would feel obliged to campaign five cars at Indy next year.

“The answer, honestly, will be I think I will definitely make a decision, which is not just all up to me,” said Kanaan who retired from full-season participation at the end of 2019, to become an oval-only driver in 2020 (for AJ Foyt Racing) and ’21 (for Ganassi, sharing the #48 with Jimmie Johnson) before running Indy only last year. “I mean, it's up to me if I say, ‘This is it,’ but if not, I think I'll make the decision when we cross the start-finish line on that Sunday.

“When I win – if I win! – I'll put everybody on the spot and I'll say, ‘I'm coming back!’ This is exactly what happened last year. Right now the focus is this 500. It wasn't a mistake, but we announced something two years ago and then a great opportunity came with Jimmie's car. I'm not going to put out there, ‘This is what I'm doing’. It's just, let it be.”

While Kanaan adores the 500 and revels in the mutual love between himself and the crowd – he and compatriot Helio Castroneves are the most popular drivers aside from local hero Ed Carpenter – he confirmed that he would not race in the event for just any team.

He said: “Let me put it this way… and no disrespect for any teams because I think we have a pretty good group of teams that can win the 500. But at this point, if I don't think it's the right opportunity for me then I wouldn't do it. I don't want to be at the 500 just to participate. Actually even last year that was part of my decision when I said, I want to come back this year.

“Yeah, I mean, winning, it's all. I would rather see a young gun coming in, taking the place for his first Indy 500, than me participating just to add a car.”

That said, Kanaan admitted that racing at Indy had become something of an addiction for him, a way of proving he’s still competitive.

“Yeah, always racing is so… You're as good as your last result. When you start coming up to my age, which is 48, by the way, people ask you that question. People doubt you. People say, ‘Maybe is it time…?’ All those questions.

“The only way to reassure even yourself – because I'm not going to say that you don't question yourself – ‘Is it time?’ or ‘Am I still up to it?’ – and then you have a result like we did last year, and it's like, ‘Wow, you know what? Come on, I know I can do it.’ That weighs a lot in my decisions going forward.

“I know anything can happen in the 500, but as long as I have it in my head that I am competitive, it doesn't matter if I finish third or if I could add one, but if I think I still have the possibility to win, I will keep trying.

“But also I need other people to see that – sponsors – and let's face it, I'm not going to get a ride if there is one seat that is going to be a one-off. I'm not coming back to do a full season again anyway.”

Asked if there was extra pressure now that Indy is a one-off, so if it goes wrong, he has to wait 12 months for redemption, the 2004 series champion who first raced an Indy car in 1998, commented, “No, not really. Obviously it could be very disappointing when you just say, I only have this race, and if it goes wrong, that's it, you're done.

“No, my mindset is -- I'm there to win, and that's all it is. I have a car to do it, have a team that was very close to doing it last year [O’Ward and Rosenqvist finished just ahead and just behind him, respectively], and I know what I'm capable of. If it doesn't go right, we're going to have to evaluate what happened.

“I know at this point it won't make a difference for what I'm going to do as far as my IndyCar career [is concerned]. I just said it, I don't see myself doing a full season ever again, so it would be good to win a second [Indy 500] and just drop the mic and say, ‘That's it!’ Or we could win a second one and say, ‘I want to come back.’

“No, the pressure has always been on.”

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