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Tony Kanaan finished third in a one-off entry with Chip Ganassi Racing. (Al Steinberg photo)

Kanaan, 47, Shows Off Indy Skills

INDIANAPOLIS — The oldest driver in the field for Sunday’s 106th Indianapolis 500 proved he’s still got it.

Tony Kanaan, 47, proved his ability behind the wheel of the No. 1 American Legion Honda that he can race with the best and compete for the victory in the Indy 500.

Kanaan finished third and was ready to pounce if the two drivers in front of him, race-leader and eventual winner Marcus Ericsson and 23-year-old Mexican Pato O’Ward collided in the final two laps of the 200-lap race.

“This is me – I leave it all out there,” Kanaan said. “I don’t save anything. I’m proud. I hope the veterans are proud. The Legion is proud and the ‘Be The One’ campaign doesn’t stop today. We are going to continue promoting this all year long and try to save one veteran per day.

“I know I still got this. I just want to come back. I hope I can come back, but it’s not up to me. I’ll go back, Chip Ganassi, Honda, The American Legion, anybody that I can, to come back.”

Kanaan hopes to return to the Indianapolis 500 again but is smart enough and wise enough to realize that decision may be out of his control. It’s up to the sponsors and a team owner, such as Chip Ganassi Racing, to put a deal together for 2023.

“It’s not up to me,” Kanaan said. “I said it, I wanted to do it one more. Right now, it’s wide open. I have one year to try to figure that out. Even if I say next year will be the next one, you’re going to ask me that question.

“I might call it quits, but I still might want to come back.”

Kanaan started sixth and was one of five Chip Ganassi Racing drivers that started the race in the top 12. Leading contender Alex Palou had a penalty early in the race when he was forced to make an emergency pit stop in a closed pit to keep from running out of fuel on lap 77. He dropped to the back of the field, but ultimately raced to a ninth-place finish.

Scott Dixon was the class of the field, leading 95 laps and appeared to be on the verge of his second Indy 500 win. But he was caught for a pit speed violation just 23 laps from the checkered flag.

His apparent second Indy 500 win turned into a 21st place finish.

Jimmie Johnson started 12th but lost four positions on the first lap and was mired in the back for most of the race. He crashed on lap 195, bringing the red flag that set up the final two-lap battle that ended with Ericsson defeating O’Ward. The race ended under caution when Sage Karam crashed with Ericsson in the third turn of the final lap.

“It was a cat-and-mouse day,” Kanaan said. “We kept pretending we were not fast enough all day. When it was time to go, we actually went.

Tony Kanaan (IndyCar photo)

“When it was four laps to go, and we’re all there, if it wasn’t for that red flag, I think it was more Pato and I playing for second place than Ericsson. As a team, that’s probably what I was going to have to do to make the team win. As long as we started fighting, Ericsson was going to go away.

“It went red. Well, I think I can restart this thing. I have a lot less to lose than those guys. They did a superb job. Pato was really smart with Felix and they almost got me. From then on, I knew, two laps to go, unless they had a hiccup like Dario Franchitti and Takuma Sato (in 2012), it was not going to be for us.

“Great month. One-off race for me,” Kanaan added. “I can’t thank enough the team, the Legion. It was a great month not just because they are sponsoring a car but for the great cause, Be the One cause, trying to save veterans’ lives, trying to get the mental health word out there.

“I’m proud. Sitting in the car when the red flag was there, hearing the crowd cheering for me, this place never stops amazing me. It’s a great feeling.

“I left it all out there.”

Kanaan knows his days are numbered in racing, that is why he enjoys each Indianapolis 500 experience.

“I was very emotional on the cool-down lap, talking to the team,” Kanaan admitted. “I told them, ‘Guys, I tried, I’m sorry, I did my best, thank you very much for everything.’ A little bit of a flashback thinking maybe that was the last time I turned some laps around this place, as well.

“I know my days are numbered. I have a plan, like I said. I think next year will be probably, if I can make it happen, will be really the last one.

“As of right now, this was the last one.”