INDIANAPOLIS – If you paid attention to the timing of the announcement this morning at the Foyt Wine Vault, you would have seen that it was slated to start at 11:10 am ET. The driver announcement has key ties to the numbers in that time sequence.
Tony Kanaan drove the No. 11 for Andretti Autosport and KVSH Racing. He then drove the No. 10 for Chip Ganassi Racing the last four seasons. Now, Kanaan will pilot the No. 14 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.
Kanaan, signed a multi-year deal to join the team in 2018, replacing Carlos Munoz in that famed entry. It was heavily rumored last year that Kanaan could join the team for 2017, as team owner A.J. Foyt is a big supporter of Kanaan. But, the popular Brazilian driver decided to stay with Ganassi for one more season.
Kanaan, has 17 career victories, the last coming in the 2014 season finale at Fontana. He also has 77 career podiums, 132 top five finishes and 216 top 10’s to his credit. He was a 2004 series champion, 2013 Indy 500 champion and has led 4,051 laps during the course of his storied career.
ABC Supply Co. will continue to sponsor the car, as Kanaan becomes the fifth driver since 2010 to pilot the iconic entry.
The multiyear contract includes longtime sponsor ABC Supply Co. and engineer Eric Cowdin, who was with Kanaan for the Indy 500 victory with KV Racing Technology, Kanaan’s 2004 Verizon IndyCar Series championship with Andretti-Green Racing and 15 of Kanaan’s race wins. Specifics of the deal were not disclosed.
“It’s a big challenge for both of us,” said Kanaan, who hasn’t visited victory lane since the 2014 season finale at Auto Club Speedway, 50 races ago. “They want to raise the level of the team, and I want to raise the level of the team. I still think I can do the job, so it’s a perfect fit for both of us. It will be really rewarding when we can prove that we can both still do it. That’s the drive that we have.”
Kanaan celebrated his 20th season racing Indy cars this year. The 1997 Indy Lights champion debuted with Tasman Motorsports the following year and drove for Forsythe Racing and Mo Nunn Racing before making the move to Andretti in 2003, where he spent eight successful seasons. He drove for KV Racing from 2011-13, where he collected the career-defining Indianapolis 500 win. The native of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, spent the past four years with Chip Ganassi Racing after replacing close friend Dario Franchitti, who retired following the 2013 season.
Kanaan will drive the Foyt team’s iconic No. 14 Chevrolet next season. The operation will be based at Foyt’s shop in Speedway. The team’s No. 4 car will be based at the team’s home shop in Waller, Texas, just outside Houston. A driver for the No. 4 has yet to be announced.
Kanaan has been in the team’s sight for some time.
“It just felt like he’d be a good fit for us,” said Larry Foyt, the team president and A.J.’s son. “The experience he brings is great, especially with us being on a new path toward being an engineering-led team. The experience he brings is very good for us. I feel like he’s got a lot of good racing left in him.”
Cowdin, who earned a degree in aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a master’s at Virginia Tech, is a respected engineer who has also worked for Team Penske and most recently Chip Ganassi Racing, where he was paired with Kanaan part of the time.
“I’m looking forward to continuing my long relationship with TK and reuniting with the folks at Chevy,” said Cowdin, who will serve as the team’s technical director. “We have a big challenge ahead of us with the new universal aero kit, and I can’t wait to get started.”
The pairing of two of the sport’s most popular figures is likely to bring enormous attention, especially at Indianapolis. A.J. Foyt, who once lived a few blocks from Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is prepared for the additional scrutiny.
“We’d been getting notification from me racing, but I’m not racing no more,” Foyt said. “Our team has gone from the front row to the back row. I think Tony can move it up. Every year we’ve been trying to get better, so when Tony became available, we jumped at it. I think he can go to the winner’s circle. I know he can.”
For his part, Kanaan is working closely with the Foyts to piece together supporting sponsors and technical help.
“It’s a good story, but once you get past that part of it, you have to perform,” Kanaan said. “We’re doing everything we can to hire the right people and make big changes and put in major investments to get all those people. There’s a lot of effort and time spent and a lot of commitment from a lot of people. That’s why it’s a perfect fit.”