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Kanaan Going Extra Distance with ‘Last Lap’ with Another Indy Win in Sights

Tony Kanaan has been taking some ribbing from friends that his “TK Last Lap” tour, which he announced in January 2020, now has many more laps to complete.

The ride Kanaan now shares with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson – Kanaan will do the four oval races, including the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge – is part of a two-year commitment to Chip Ganassi Racing. Kanaan also added his name to run four races in Tony Stewart’s new Superstar Racing Experience and a 10-race assignment in Brazil’s top stock car series, where he will share a car with Rubens Barrichello.

It adds up to 18 races for Kanaan in 2021 and begs the question, “What retirement?”

“There is no retirement anymore, I guess,” the 46-year-old Brazilian said, acknowledging he hasn’t done this many races in a season since 2014. “When you have four kids, you’ve got to keep going, right?”

Kanaan said this was to be the year wife Lauren returned to television work, with Kanaan serving as something of a stay-at-home father. Of course, those plans are now on hold.

However, the bounce in Kanaan’s step and the excitement in his voice suggests he couldn’t be happier to be in the No. 48 Honda as he pursues a second “500” victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first coming in 2013.

Kanaan also is a former “500” pole winner (2005) and ranks 14th in laps led in the race (41 laps more than boyhood friend Helio Castroneves). On May 30, he will become the 10th driver in history with 20 career starts in the iconic race.

“I feel like a kid that got a new toy,” Kanaan said. “I was getting ready to look for other things in my life because I thought (2020) was going to be the last lap. Then the pandemic came and I kind of flirted and playing around, saying it was not going to be fair for me to go away without racing in front of my fans.”

Then came calls from Johnson and Chip Ganassi.

Kanaan didn’t have to think twice about committing to the oval races each of the next two seasons, deciding so quickly that he didn’t consult with Lauren.

“I just told her afterwards because I was so afraid what she was going to say,” he said. “But she’s a trooper; she understood.”

Kanaan has won 17 career races in INDYCAR but none since the season-ending race of 2014 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. His last full-time season was 2019 with AJ Foyt Racing, and honestly there wasn’t much to celebrate last year in six races with Foyt’s team. His best finish was a ninth at World Wide Technology Raceway.

This is Kanaan’s second stint with Ganassi’s team, the first a four-year run from 2014-17.

“I don’t think I can express how lucky I am and how grateful I am,” he said. “It’s something I don’t take for granted at all.

“I also believe that people still believe in my skills. A guy like Chip would not just hire me because (of past success). There are plenty of good drivers out there to be able to (choose from).

“Physically, I’m in a lot better shape than a lot of people out there. It’s an awesome experience, really exciting to be able to be around a couple more years.”

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