MADISON, Ill. – Tony Kanaan doesn’t really want to leave, which is why Sunday’s NTT IndyCar Series, which may have been the final race of his career, didn’t really feel like a goodbye at all.
There was little fanfare and no going away presents. Plenty of fellow drivers and crew members came up to hug the 2004 IndyCar Series champion and 2013 Indianapolis 500 winner before Sunday’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Kanaan started 19th and finished 19th in the No. 14 Chevrolet for A.J. Foyt Racing, not exactly the way Kanaan wants to end his career. Plus, he has already gone on record as saying the whole point of Kanaan’s Last Lap was to celebrate his final season with the fans.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to many races, including last Sunday’s 104th Indianapolis 500, being held without spectators.
Kanaan announced last month that he wants to return to the 105th Indianapolis 500 so that he can perform in front of the fans one last time.
Unfortunately, he has no ride, no sponsor and so far, no deals for 2020.
“Well, I have to be realistic, right? For my liking, I think it’s not fair that I would go out this way,” Kanaan said afterwards. “It’s not fair for my fans. It’s not fair for me. But it’s easier said than done.
“Today I approached the race as was my last race. I have nothing for next year. I have no sponsor. I have no team. Everybody that was involved with me knew about my decision. Obviously, I changed my mind.
“It’s going to be a challenge. It’s going to be a challenge to try to see if I can put something together to do the same what I did this year. I can assure you, when I announced this thing in February, I’m not coming back a full season, that’s for sure. If I can put a deal together to do the five ovals again, that’s what I’m going to work on.
“As of now, I’m done.”
At Gateway a limited number of fans were allowed to attend. World Wide Technology Raceway officials and the state of Illinois limited the crowd to 20 percent capacity, but the total attendance appeared to be between 5,000 to 10,000 fans each day.
“I had a pretty good day yesterday, so it’s nice to see some fans in the stands supporting us,” Kanaan said. “Not the way I want to end my last race, but it is what it is.”
The hot rumor involving Kanaan involves him sharing a ride with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who is investigating a potential part-time IndyCar deal. Kanaan would drive all the oval races and Johnson would drive the street and road courses.
While that sounds tantalizing, it’s just a rumor.
“I have not talked to any teams yet,” Kanaan admitted. “I actually went back to my sponsors. We set up some meetings for this week. I think the best approach was going to be let’s see what kind of money I can raise, then I can go talk to the teams.
“Obviously, a lot of people have heard what I’m doing. My boss actually approached me to talk this weekend. Things are going to develop pretty quick. I think all my sponsors are onboard as far as wanting to talk to see what extent they can do something, if they can do something.
“I would say I’m not going to wait till the end of the season. The next two weeks I probably will know something, then we’ll start talking.
“But we’ll see. It’s going to be really hard.”
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