Why Tony Kanaan is Laughing and Crying at Final Indy 500

·3 min read
2023 indianapolis 500 pace car
Why Tony Kanaan Is Laughing, Crying at Final 500Penske Entertainment/Chris Jones
  • Sentimental moments washing over Tony Kanaan as final race day draws near.

  • Brazilian fan favorite taking it easy on last practice opportunity Friday.

  • Josef Newgarden acknowledged Kanaan’s concern that “there were probably some [aggressive-driving] moments where it was unnecessary . . . a couple of moments you don’t want to insert yourself into.”

Tony Kanaan wanted to give himself his best chance of winning his career-final NTT IndyCar Series race—and his best chance of being able to start it.

So when the 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner, 11th fastest during Friday’s Carb Day practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, saw his fellow drivers being noticeably more aggressive, he backed out after 59 laps.

“We saw what happened the other day (when Katherine Legge rear-ended Stefan Wilson in a wall-smasher that left him with a broken vertebra that required surgery). But when I saw three-wide in Turn 1 20 minutes to go . . . Why you want to do that? So, I’m like, ‘I’m out. I don’t need this,” he said after the final practice session before Sunday’s 107th edition of the Indianapolis 500. . . . It’s not a big deal, but I don’t want any part of it.’”

Instead, Kanaan would rather savor the sentiments that have poured in this month as he prepares for retirement at the end of his 22nd start Sunday in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” (11 a.m. ET, NBC, Peacock, Universo, IndyCar Radio Network).

“It’s awesome. It takes a lot longer for me to go from A to B. Everybody has something nice to say. I’m just taking it in. It’s really cool,” the Brazilian said of his reception in his adopted home.

“None of us here sought racing to be famous or to be recognized by fans. We just race because we love it,” he said. “When I see that people appreciate what I’ve done, it honestly feels quite nice. I’m enjoying it. I have big moments of great happiness, and then I cry and I’m happy again.”

Kanaan, who drives the No. 66 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, said he has prepared for these sentimental moments but concedes that he isn’t sure how or if he’ll keep his emotions in check come race day.

“I knew that was going to happen from today on, tomorrow, the parade,” Kanaan said, referring to the traditional 500 Festival Parade through the downtown Indianapolis streets. “I don’t know how I’m going to hold myself at drivers intros, but after that, we’ll just go do what we need to do. We’ll leave it all there for one last time. It’s been a very smooth month. Time to go work.”

Carb Day Leader

Two-time 500 winner Takuma Sato led Carb Day action with a top lap of 39.4988 seconds at 227.855 mph in the No. 11 Deloitte Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing. Sato, of Tokyo, will start eighth Sunday.