TONY KANAAN will make his 300th consecutive IndyCar start this weekend in Sonoma. It will also mark his 360th IndyCar race (total) since he started competing in 1998 at the age of 23 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year title. His victory at Sonoma in 2005 was his first and only--so far--victory on a permanent road course as the six previous wins came on ovals. Kanaan’s wife Lauren gave birth to their first daughter on Friday, Aug. 31 while he was in Portland. He flew home the night of the race to meet Nina who weighed in at 7 lbs. 11 oz and was 20.5 in long. We asked him a few questions…
Q: 300 consecutive starts is quite significant. Did keeping this streak going enter your mind when you might have been hurt or not feeling great?
TK: “I'd say I never thought of breaking a record or anything like that. I just took one race at a time, and when I noticed I was breaking [Jimmy] Vasser's record in 2011, it actually took me by surprise the 212 races. It's something you don't think about. Now, all of a sudden, it’s already 300!”
Q: Was there ever a race where you had to drive through the pain? What were the circumstances?
TK: “In 2003 when I crashed at [Twin Ring] Motegi, Japan, I broke my wrist and the
suspension went inside my leg. That was right before the 500. I raced with a carbon fiber cast at the 500 and I finished third. [Dr.] Trammel operated on me the Tuesday after Japan and I had two weeks before opening day. I missed opening day and the first two days. Then I raced with this special cast. I couldn’t twist my arm because I had a bunch of pins. It was not the most comfortable thing to do, but I kept going.”
Q: Did you ever “hide” an injury to stay in the cockpit?
TK: “No, not really. By doing that you're putting yourself and others at risk and I'm not like that. Maybe as a kid you might think it's worth hiding an injury, but at this level it's not something you can even consider.”
Q: What is the closest you came to quitting IndyCars? What brought you back?
TK: "At the end of 2010 when I was released by my contract with Andretti it crossed my
mind. By that time I had many victories, a championship and an established career. It was the end of the season, all good seats were taken at the other teams and I was left with no option. But I took it the same way I took the beginning of my career when my dad passed... No option was not an option. I had to reinvent myself and go after sponsorship and a team, something that I didn't have to do since I got to Indy Lights in 1996. It was extremely challenging time and what kept me going was that I didn't think I was done. Two years after that I won the 500, so I guess it was a good thing I kept going.”
Q: What is the next milestone number you have in mind? Or do you even think about them?
TK: “No, I don't think about it.”
Q: In 13 starts at Sonoma, you qualified in the top-10 seven times and finished in the top-10 seven times, including winning your first time there in 2005. What do you like about the track?
TK: “It's a fast, physical and challenging track. It's a place that's fun to drive, like a roller coaster.”
Q: It’s been a tough year helping to rebuild the No. 14 team, what would a top-5 finish at Sonoma mean to you?
TK: “We all knew coming in that 2018 would be a building season for the AJ Foyt ABC Supply Team. Like I said, Sonoma is a challenging place so getting a good result would be a huge morale booster for the team, a very good way to end the season and better than that, a good way to start our off-season focusing on 2019. I can't believe that this is the last race of the year already.”
On the birth of his daughter Nina (quote given Sept. 1 in Portland, Ore.): “I know people
say, it’s your fourth. But it doesn’t matter how many there are, it’s still very sweet. I feel very lucky that we have healthy kids—all born very healthy with no problems. When you have a bad day on the race track you have to put life in perspective and believe there are much bigger issues than just having a bad race car and not starting well. Days like yesterday and then being up all night with Lauren on the phone and hearing the baby cry and it was a girl, which deep inside, when you have three boys, you kind of hope for a girl, it’s awesome.”
On racing at Sonoma: “Sonoma is such a cool place to drive. It’s fast, technical and full of elevation changes. When you put all that together it makes for a pretty challenging track. I’ve enjoyed racing in Sonoma since INDYCAR started there in 2005, you know it always has a great crowd, great fans and an awesome atmosphere overall. It’s a track that will surely be missed by the paddock.”
MATHEUS LEIST ON:
Racing at Sonoma: “Headed to Sonoma this weekend and just realized that the season flew by. I remember St. Petersburg and Indy as if it was yesterday, and now my first IndyCar series season is almost over. Has been a great year! Sonoma is a place that I’ve never raced before, but grew up playing video games there and thinking about racing in that place one day. It’s such a pretty city and a fun track to drive, it has lots of elevation changes which make things pretty interesting. After a great pace in Portland, the ABC Supply car No.4 is gonna give its all to finish the season on a high. I definitely can’t wait for it.”
On His Teammate Tony Kanaan and his 300th IndyCar Start: “Tony and I had a great time together this year. I grew up seeing him race, and today we’re teammates. The guy has achieved everything he always wanted in his career and he loves what he does. I’m on my way to my 17th IndyCar start and he’s on his way to his 300th straight start, over 20 years racing in the same series, that’s crazy. I’m just so grateful to have him around helping me all the time, he deserves the best. And you know what, the old man is still fast, he can keep going for a long, long time yet.”
Last Race: At Portland, Kanaan started 24th and finished 11th. Leist started 19th and finished 14th in his first race there.
Past Performance at Sonoma Raceway: In 13 races here, Tony Kanaan’s best start and finish came in his first year at the track 2005: he won after starting third. He has seven starts in the top-10 and seven finishes in the top-10 including his victory there. Matheus Leist is making his first start here in IndyCar, he did not compete here in Indy Lights. In 16 starts (counting double entries 2015-2017) here, the Foyt team’s best start is 13th with Takuma Sato (2013) and Conor Daly (2017). The team’s best finish is fourth with Sato in 2014 who also posted the team’s second best finish of eighth in 2015.
ABC Supply is in its 14th season as primary sponsor of A.J. Foyt’s IndyCar team, making it the longest running team sponsor in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The company was founded in 1982 by Ken and Diane Hendricks with just three stores. The company now has over 700 stores and topped $9 billion in sales in 2017. ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500. The company has leveraged its involvement by entertaining over 92,000 associates and customers over the past 13 racing seasons. This weekend the company will entertain nearly 600 guests.
ABC Supply national account Petersen Dean, based in Fremont, Calif., will be featured on the engine cover of the No. 14 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment this weekend along with a Meet and Greet with Tony Kanaan.
L&W account, North Counties Drywall Inc., based in Sonoma, Calif., won the ‘Your Name Here’ contest. The company name will be on the engine cover of the No. 4 ABC Supply Chevrolet. Guests will receive the VIP treatment plus a Meet and Greet with Matheus “Matt” Leist.
The INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma will be televised live on NBC Sports Network on Sunday, Sept. 16, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET. The first practice on Friday will be live-streamed on racecontrol.IndyCar.com and youtube.com/IndyCar at 2:00 p.m. ET. NBCSN will re-air it at 4 p.m. ET.