Tony Kanaan says he was looking forward to reuniting with Dario Franchitti (they were teammates at then-Andretti Green Racing) in 2014 at Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. Without that coming to fruition, he's pleased to be driving the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car that Franchitti occupied for the past five IndyCar Series seasons.
"I'm extremely excited, but this is a very bittersweet day for me as many of you know," Kanaan said during the announcement at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis. "On one hand I'm driving for the Target team and couldn't be more thrilled about the possibilities for next season. On the other hand I'm taking over the seat my good friend Dario had to leave."
Franchitti, a four-time IndyCar Series champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, last month announced his retirement from competition racing following an incident on the final lap of the second race at Houston in early October.
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"This year has been unbelievable for me, but how this story makes a full loop is that I almost had a history in the 10 car before Dario got there," Kanaan said. "I didn't take it at the time (re-signing with the Andretti team) and Dario filled that seat from Dan (Wheldon). One of the toughest times of this year was when Dario was at my house while he was going through the (battery of) tests to see if he would be able to drive again. I didn't know how to talk to my best friend when he broke the news to me.
"He looked at me and said, 'It would be really cool if you could drive the Target car and replace me. It would make it easier in my retirement.' There's a lot of history in that car and hopefully we'll be able to make more history."
Wheldon had six wins, three poles and 17 podiums from 2006-08. Franchitti recorded three consecutive IZOD IndyCar Series championships, two of his Indianapolis 500 wins (2010 and 2012), 13 overall wins, 16 poles and 36 podiums.
Kanaan, who turns 39 on Dec. 31, has posted 16 victories, 15 pole starts and is the active leader with 215 consecutive starts dating to the Portland in 2001. He'll join reigning series champion Scott Dixon, seven-time race winner Ryan Briscoe and Charlie Kimball, who won his maiden IndyCar race this past season, in comprising the 2014 lineup for the 18-race season that kicks off March 28-30 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
The four drivers spoke with Frachitti via phone before the announcement.
"I want to thank NTT DATA, Target and TNT Energy drink for looking at the big picture and making adjustments so that Scott, Ryan, Charlie and I can go out and get the job done for all our partners on track next season," said Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series champion. "The teamwork that has been shown here is a true reflection of Chip's style as an owner. I can't wait to get started."