Tony Kanaan says that his return to Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team adds pressure to win, but that it is a “great problem to have”.
The Brazilian veteran, who raced for Ganassi from 2014 through ’17, was confirmed this morning as the oval driver of the #48 CGR-Honda for the next two years.
He will share the car with NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson, who will compete in the road and street courses.
Kanaan said that returning to a team that has just earned its 13th drivers’ championship and its sixth with Scott Dixon is more demanding but he welcomes having a realistic opportunity to add a second Indy 500 crown to the one he earned with KV Racing in 2013.
“My entire career was racing under pressure, and I think I perform better when I’m under pressure,” said the 2004 IndyCar champion. “It adds a lot to it.
“The enjoyment is always going to be there. Once you’re driving a racecar, in my opinion, you always enjoy it – but you enjoy it even more when you’re winning.
“And you add the pressure to it, I think for me it’s the best combination. Chip is in the business to win races, that’s all he cares about, and he won’t save you if he has something to tell you.
“To me it’s a great problem to have – that butterfly in your stomach from now on. It’s like, ‘Wow, now I have to do it.’
“I have some tough teammates there and I’m going to have to be on top of my game because the team is going to give me everything I need, with no excuses not to win races.
“[I’ve] been there before a few times, and I think it’s totally manageable.”
“They have proven on and off that they are one of the top teams to beat, and as a racecar driver, being selfish, that’s where you want to be.
“You want to be on a winning team and a big organisation that has a lot of resources and so on.
While there is set to be only four oval races on the 2021 IndyCar calendar – a Texas Motor Speedway double-header in early May, the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 and Gateway in August – nothing has yet been confirmed for 2022.
NTT Data and Bryant will be the principal sponsors of Kanaan, while the #48 will run in Carvana livery while Johnson is in the car, but the seven-time NASCAR Cup champion was also crucial in getting Kanaan onboard.
The deal, he said, was completed in a week, but he had remained in contact with previous employer Larry Foyt of AJ Foyt Racing.
“That was step one, get the sponsorship,” said Kanaan.
“Step two, it was trying to find a place that would fit right, that would make the right decision and so on, and that was a little bit more complicated.
“There were a few sleepless nights and talking to Jimmie every day – look how many pieces of the puzzle we had to put together!”
“Jimmie had to get his deal first, which we didn’t even know if it was going to be Ganassi at the time.
“The deal happened really quick, but we’ve been talking about this on and off for quite a while.
“In the beginning I really said ‘Aargh, this is never going to happen!’ That was the pessimistic side of me thinking it was going to be impossible to pull it off.”
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