LONG POND, Pa. -- KV Racing Technology-SH Racing engineer Eric Cowdin was startled when Tony Kanaan bounded from the No. 11 Sunoco "Turbo" car following his final stint in the Open Test at Pocono Raceway and bussed him on the cheek.
Yes, the recently-crowned Indianapolis 500 winner was exceptionally pleased with the progress in preparation for the July 7 Pocono INDYCAR 400 Fueled by Sunoco. Kanaan was second fastest July 4 in the test on the 2.5-mile tri-oval, which is hosting its first Indy car race since 1989.
Winning is important to Kanaan, the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion who sits fifth in the standings through 10 of 19 races. Winning this 160-lap race (noon ET on ABC) is crucial. A victory would be another step toward Kanaan earning the $1 million Fuzzy's Triple Crown bonus. He would have to complete the sweep Oct. 19 at Auto Club Speedway to collect.
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"Why don't we say what it would mean to win the Triple Crown? Why do we need to say a million dollars?" Kanaan joked. "A million dollars is always welcome, I have to say. I'm really not thinking about the million dollars. I'm thinking, 'Let's go one at a time.' If I win here, I'm getting closer, but it's not guaranteed yet.''
He'll join 23 other competitors July 6 for a 60-minute practice session at 10 a.m. (ET) that precedes qualifications at 1:15 p.m., and the day closes with a 30-minute session at 5:30 p.m. (the IMS Radio Network broadcast and real-time Timing & Scoring are on www.indycar.com and the INDYCAR 13 app).
Kanaan has qualified and finished in the top 10 in the past two races -- both short tracks -- and has placed third in two of the past three events. He won at Indianapolis on May 26 from the 12th starting position.
"We did test here last week so we came back with a solid setup already," he said. "We worked on race (set up) a lot. It was definitely helpful. I'm happy with the car so we'll see. It's going to be a close race."